“Ever since Trail Mix was established nearly two decades ago, a lot of people have seen the need for a motorized version, but no one had the time to take it on,” said Clif Koontz. Trail Mix is a county advisory committee that focuses on non-motorized trails in Grand County.
Now Koontz is helping meet that need as chair of the Grand County Motorized Trails Committee. Last year, the County Department of Community and Economic Development added a new Division of Active Transportation and Trails, which also focuses on non-motorized trails and works closely with the Trail Mix Committee. However, there was still no dedicated motorized trails group.
“The need has only increased in recent years, so rather than wait for my schedule to clear up, I tried to seize the day,” said Koontz.
He and members of local four wheeling groups Moab Friends For Wheelin’ and Red Rock 4-Wheelers approached the county council with the idea for a motorized trails advisory group.
Council members suggested that the group begin holding unofficial meetings as a “trial run.” Interested citizens met eight times between June and October of 2019, and the committee was officially recognized by the council at the Nov. 19 Grand County Council meeting.
The committee’s first official meeting was held on Jan. 9 in the county council chambers. At the meeting, the group worked on establishing their identity, carefully crafting a mission statement and logo, and discussed plans for future trail projects. The first trail work day will be on Saturday, Feb. 1.
The Jan. 9 meeting was attended by the committee officers: Chair Koontz, Vice-Chair Doug McElhaney, Secretary and Four Wheel Drive Representative Dee McNenny, Motorcycle Representative Zane Taylor, ATV and Side-by-Side Representative Scott McFarland, and Snowmobile Representative Jason Taylor. Dave Hellman was elected to the position of Treasurer during the meeting.
The position of E-bike Representative is still vacant, and the group welcomes candidates willing to fill that role.
Other attendees included representatives from land management agencies and the Active Transportation and Trails Division, as well as Green River Mayor Travis Bacon.
“On a personal level, motorized use is near and dear to my heart. I grew up on ATVs, Jeeps, you name it,” he said, adding that he also cherishes hiking and other non-motorized forms of recreation.
Koontz said that while the committee is under Grand County, he hopes they will frequently collaborate with neighboring entities like Green River. Green River is an access point for many motorized trails, such as those in the San Rafael Desert, where the BLM is developing a new travel management plan, and the White Wash Sand Dunes Recreation Area.
Committee members deliberated over each word in their mission statement, wanting to make their purpose clear and concise. “Preserving” and “maintaining” were considered as alternatives or additions to the word “conserving.” The word “everyone” was favored over “users” or “motorized users” to convey the inclusiveness of their intent. The final mission statement reads, “Conserving the abundance, diversity, and quality of motorized trails for everyone.” They also critiqued an early draft of a committee logo.
“I anticipate most of the activity to be trail work, promoting minimum-impact practices, and advocating for ample access through the travel-planning process,” said Koontz of the committee’s focus.
At the time of the meeting, the ground outside was still locked in ice and snow and the inversion hung heavy over the area, but the members optimistically planned a trail project in the coming weeks. They discussed various areas that needed to be more clearly delineated, built up, covered over, or better-signed.
They also discussed the problem of trail users leaving human waste on the side of the trail, and considered the distribution of “wag bags,” or human waste carry-out bags.
In addition to conducting hands-on trail projects, the committee will also be a resource for the Grand County Council and local governments to consult when they are facing recreation decisions or challenges that involve motorized use.
“I do think our society needs more research, thought, and coordination on issues that surround motorized trails,” Koontz said. “Ultimately the council maintains the authority to determine the county’s position, but I hope it will be informed by compelling work from the MTC... maintained trails, educated visitors, and diverse travel plans are a win-win for OHV enthusiasts and the rest of the community. ”
Koontz is also the executive director of Ride With Respect, a nonprofit organization that promotes trail access to motorized users, conservation and stewardship of recreational resources, and positive relationships with other user groups. He’ll continue to hold that position while volunteering his time to the MTC.
All positions on the committee are currently unpaid, though Koontz hopes that eventually there will be a paid volunteer coordinator position.
The first trail project will take place on Saturday, Feb. 1, on the Hell’s Revenge Trail, in partnership with the staff of the Sand Flats Recreation Area.
One challenging section of the motorized trail has proven intimidating to some users, who have driven off-trail on either side to avoid a large ledge feature. The group will work to clarify one of the work-arounds as an official option, while closing the other work-around.
“The primary line will remain ledged-out for those seeking more challenge,” Koontz explained. “We may eventually sign each line as ‘harder option’ and ‘easier option.’”
The group welcomes volunteers for the Hell’s Revenge project. Participants will meet at the Hell’s Revenge exit lot at 10 a.m. on Feb. 1.
“Bring your own lunch, water, layers of work clothes, and modified 4WD or other transportation if you have it,” said Koontz. If you don’t have 4WD transportation, rides will be available. All necessary tools will be provided by Ride With Respect. Koontz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 435-259-8334.
Grand County Motorized Trail Committee meetings are scheduled for every second Thursday of the month at 12:30 p.m. in the Grand County Council chambers (125 E. Center Street, Moab).