UTVs are noisy. We all know this. For some, that wicked braaap! of the engine is the sound of their next adrenaline rush. For others, it’s just noise.
That’s the argument at the center of new city and county ordinances that are aimed at restricting off-road rentals and UTV speeds in Moab, Utah. The tension between wheelers and Moab has reached new heights as rumors of even more restrictions circulate.
The city of Moab is home to about 5,000 residents and the great Grand County area is home to another 5,000. And it just so happens to be the rock crawling mecca of the world.
People travel from all over the continent to test out their UTVs against the red sandstone slick rock and treacherous terrain. The reward for their pilgrimage to Moab is thrilling UTV trails that take them to dizzying heights and offer mind-boggling vistas that go unmatched anywhere else.
In fact, around three million people visit Moab every year. Many of them bring UTVs and ATVs with them and many more take advantage of the booming UTV rental business.
For years there has been tension between the locals and the tourists in regard to noise. But the recent pandemic has led to an uptick in outdoor, socially-distant activities, and wheeling at Moab has been no exception.
So with increased tourism comes increased noise. Increased noise has led to increased complaints. This has bolstered the city council’s resolve to do something about the noise.
UTV Utah, a non-profit organization that organizes rides and fights for land rights for off-road riding in Utah, has been in constant conversation with the city of Moab for over a year. They agree that noise can and should be reduced in cities, and there are ways to make it happen.
Primarily, enforcing speed limits on UTVs and ATVs would make a huge difference on the noise pollution for the town. However, the city council argues that it doesn’t have the resources to enforce them.
On October 20th, 2020, Moab and Grand County voted in favor of three new resolutions.
The new speed limits, while not fun, are an important step to making sure locals and visitors can enjoy Moab in harmony.
The most consequential of these resolutions is stopping new event permits. That means no group rides and no big events. Not to mention, no Rally on the Rocks—at least temporarily.
The important part to remember is that these new restrictions are a stop gap measure until they can find a more permanent solution.
That more permanent solution may just be banning UTVs and ATVs on roads in Moab and Grand County altogether.
UTV Utah reported on their Facebook page that a new bill is in the works that would exempt Moab and potentially Grant County from the state-wide street legal UTV bill passed in 2017. That would mean no more off-road vehicles on the streets in Moab.
It would also seriously hamper the rental industry as potential customers would now also have to work out the logistics of getting their 500 dollar a day vehicles to and from Moab’s UTV trails. Adding in the cost of renting something to haul it makes the whole endeavor prohibitively expensive for most.
Getting from trail to trail would also be less appealing for people that own their side-by-sides. Instead of taking their machine down the rough and rocky back roads to get to a trailhead, they might be forced to haul it all the way there. That’s a lot of extra work getting it loaded and unloaded. They’ll have extra wear and tear on their trailer and truck too.
All in all, some of the appeal of Moab would be lost if wheeling became more prohibitive. This bill is still in its nascent stage (no name or exact wording has been confirmed yet), but if it were to eventually become law, it would undoubtedly change what Moab would be for every visitor.
The rocks and hills would go unchanged. The beauty would be preserved. But would it be the pinnacle of the side-by-side community that it is today? Probably not. It would still be enjoyed thoroughly by some, but many would miss out on its spectacle.
The wants and needs of residents and off-roaders don’t have to be at odds. The old adage that if you can’t police yourself, someone else is gonna do it rings true again here.
So if you ride in Moab or anywhere else where it’s legal, keep off the throttle and ride quiet. If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, check out UTV Utah. They’re quick to dish out information and ways to help.
The bottom line is that noise is a problem, and respect from both sides is needed in order to avoid greater restrictions.