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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Moab, Grand County Pass Regulations To Curb Noise from All Terrain Vehicles, In Response To Complaints

An ATV on a dirt trail
Yovany Camacho/ Flickr
Moab and Grand County voted Tuesday to put restrictions on ATVs in response to complaints

Moab and Grand County voted in a joint meeting Tuesday to put an indefinite pause on new licenses for ATV events, as well as rental, sales and tour companies. They also put a new 15-mile-per-hour speed limit on the vehicles, which will likely apply in residential neighborhoods.

The moves come in response to growing complaints about noisy all-terrain vehicles in Moab.

Almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition to “Make Moab Quiet Again” since it was created Oct. 17, and the city and county have received a record number of complaints about the noise issue this fall, according to one of the resolutions passed in the meeting.

Kevin Walker, who’s running for Grand County council, said ATV noise is the number one issue he has encountered while campaigning. He attributed the problem in part to the state Legislature’s decision in 2015 to make ATVs street legal.

“People, they’re getting woken up at 6 a. m. They’re unable to enjoy their backyards because of all the noise. It’s really a very serious problem,” Walker said.

This isn’t the first time the issue has come up for the Moab City Council. At their Oct. 13 meeting, they debated solutions, including a sound ordinance and a speed limit for all vehicles, since ATVs are louder when they are going faster.

But the police chief and city manager said the sound ordinance would be too hard to enforce and the city attorney said the council could not pass a law that discriminated against ATVs.

County Attorney Christina Sloan clarified Tuesday that state law does allow cities and counties to place different regulations on different classes of vehicles.

Ben Burr is the policy director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a group that advocates for motorized recreation, and he said he agrees that noise from ATVs has created a problem in Moab. He said the speed limit is “a good step” toward addressing that, but he took issue with the moratorium on new licenses for guiding businesses.

“[The] ATV/UTV market is growing like crazy,” Burr said. “So you have all these new users coming into the sport, and you’ve just put an artificial constraint on the people who can show them how to do it responsibly.”

During the meeting, Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus also proposed lobbying the state Legislature to allow the city to create a permit system for the vehicles that would prioritize local users and outfitters.

But Burr said a permit system would likely not get traction in the legislature—and that not allowing ATVs to drive on city streets creates other issues, like overcrowding at trail heads. He said that was one of the reasons behind the 2015 law that made them street-legal.

“It’s not like someone sat down and said, ‘What can we do to aggravate the people of Moab,’” he said. “It was there to solve a problem.”

The speed limit will not be in effect until signs are posted, while the moratorium began Tuesday.

Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. She served as a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country.
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