Wasatch Environmental Update for July 26, 2015
By John Worlock, Member SOC Board of Directors
“Sedona, Moab and the Wasatch”
We’ve been reading an article in our favorite western magazine, called High Country News. HCN is reporting on the invasions of mountain bikers in the Coconino National Forest, just adjacent to the town of Sedona, Arizona. Sedona sits at an altitude of 4500 ft, just a bit lower than and south of the northern city of Flagstaff. When we were younger, Sedona was a mecca for followers of the New Age culture, but more recently it has become a more mechanized mecca, a magnet for the mountain-biking community.
This suggests comparisons with our slick-rock biking town in Utah, Moab. Moab, as we know, is the focus not only for slick rock mountain biking but also for jeep safaris and a variety of river-rafting expeditions.
Moab is also the gateway town for the attractive outdoor destinations of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. These attractions tend to produce gridlock on Moab’s main thoroughfare. Recently the state police have had to intervene to clear the traffic jam trying to enter Arches, and no one yet has found a solution for traffic jams within that popular National Park.
The situation in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona is quite different. It is similar in that there are too many people wanting inhabit too little countryside. But whereas in Utah we have too many automobiles, there the excess is mountain bikes, or perhaps mountain bikers. Better yet, in analogy to Utah’s problems, it’s too many scofflaws, who construct and ride their illegal trails through the forest lands, daring the authorities to stop them. As the legal bike trails become crowded, new ones are hewn and the authorities are hard pressed to contain them.
OK, maybe these scofflaws are more closely related to our off-road motorized outlaws on BLM land in Southern Utah. But we want to bring these ideas home to roost in Salt Lake County. The fact of the matter is that there is only so much attractive land, while the numbers of folks who want to take their recreation there, one way or another, grow inexorably larger.
We hope that Mountain Accord, the recent study of access to the Central Wasatch, will find an answer to the problem of recreational overpopulation.