An annual event for off-highway vehicles known as side-by-sides or UTVs announced that it would move to San Juan County after being based in Moab for over a decade. The Rally on the Rocks has been a flash point in recent discussions about excessive UTV noise in residential neighborhoods. Some complaints specifically called out Rally on the Rocks as a culprit in bringing the loud machines to town and asked the Grand County Commission to stop permitting the event.
“2021 Rally on the Rocks headquarters will now be held in San Juan County, less than 2 miles south of the [Old Spanish Trail Arena],” a statement on the event’s website reads. Rally organizer Sean Reddish confirmed that the 2021 event headquarters, where a large vendor expo is set up, will move over the county line, characterizing Grand County staff as “slow-rolling” him on issuing a permit for this fall.
In 2019, county staff and event organizers worked painstakingly on a set of new stipulations to be attached to the Rally on the Rocks 2020 permit [See “Noise and traffic, tourists and money: new restrictions on Rally on the Rocks” in Sept. 5, 2019 edition].
The coronavirus pandemic caused the 2020 Rally, which usually takes place in May, to be postponed until the fall. However, disagreements regarding previously agreed upon stipulations with Grand County caused the permit to be delayed. Ultimately event organizers canceled the 2020 Rally altogether.
Reddish said he interprets the county’s recent moratorium on UTV special events as a denial of a 2021 permit for Rally on the Rocks [See “Reigning in UTVs” in Oct. 22, 2020 edition].
The 2021 event will be on private property, said Reddish, where a permit from San Juan County is not required. He added that sales tax from the event will be paid to San Juan County instead of Grand County, and donations will go to San Juan County organizations.
“By not working with ROTR, Grand County and its charities will lose out,” Reddish wrote in an email to the Moab Sun News.
Rally on the Rocks has a history of donating thousands of dollars to local organizations, including the gift of a custom Polaris RZR to the Grand County Search and Rescue team in 2016.
Reddish said organizers plan to instead donate $20,000 in 2021 to the San Juan County SAR team and the San Juan County Foundation, a Blanding-based nonprofit devoted to promoting education.
“It’s a fairly substantial financial loss that Grand County has just by not working with us,” Reddish said.
When the Grand County Commission learned that the event planned to move its staging area to San Juan County, it sent a letter to the local Bureau of Land Management office asking that the agency deny or revoke the Rally’s permit. [See “Large public events cause COVID-19 concerns: Commission considers restrictions” in Nov. 12 edition].
“It would still have the exact same impact on our community,” said Commission Chair Mary McGann at a Nov. 4 commission meeting, speaking of the Rally based in San Juan County.
In an email to the Moab Sun News, Lynn McAloon, public information officer for the BLM, said that the agency could not revoke the event’s standing 10-year permit without cause.
“With the permit already in force, there would need to be a justification such as violation of BLM stipulations to make what would be an appealable decision to revoke the permit,” McAloon wrote.
Reddish said in his email that asking the BLM to revoke the Rally’s permit was “wrong on many levels.” He said BLM officials monitor the event each year and receive a “great rating” from the agency.
“They have trail monitors at each trail,” he said of the BLM. “They come and surprise you, and make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.”
Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt, Moab field office manager for the BLM, confirmed that BLM officials do unscheduled trail checks for compliance with stipulations like the number of vehicles per ride and dissemination of Leave No Trace messaging. She said the BLM doesn’t have a “rating system” for special event permit holders; rather, she said “either they follow the stipulations or they don’t.” She also noted that the BLM permit only pertains to guided trail rides, not the vendor expo.
Reddish said that as in past years, Rally on the Rocks will continue to promote safety and compliance with regulations.
“We’re going to do the same thing that we’ve always done in terms of educating people and having a safe event,” he said.
The event website currently features a video produced by the Moab Area Travel Council that covers UTV safety, regulations, and courtesy.
Meanwhile, Reddish believes UTV businesses in Grand County should be concerned about the commission’s recent moves to reduce speed limits for OHVs and place a moratorium on licenses for new UTV businesses as well as UTV events.
“That’s the first shot over the bow that you’re not welcome,” Reddish said.