Rally on the Rocks, an annual UTV event that has sparked heated debates between event organizers and county officials over the past two years, will not take place in Grand County this spring.
“Following advice from our legal team, the entirety of the Rally will be held in San Juan County,” reads a statement on the event’s website.
Scheduled for May 11 through 15, the event will be headquartered off Highway 191, less than a mile south of the border between Grand and San Juan counties at the Dixie 4WD auto repair shop and the Moab Off Road Compound, a rental accommodation geared toward off-road enthusiasts.
The website emphasizes that all event trail rides will be on trails located within San Juan County, though it also reminds readers that “all trails in and around the Moab area are open for public use.”
Following a wave of complaints from Grand County citizens, in 2019 county officials met with RotR organizers to discuss mitigations and compromises that would assuage residents’ concerns about street noise and inconsiderate driving behaviors observed during the Rally.
After in-depth discussions, the parties agreed on a set of stipulations that would apply to the 2020 event. (See “Noise and traffic, tourists and money: new restrictions on Rally on the Rocks” in the Sept. 5, 2019 edition.) Due to coronavirus restrictions, the 2020 Rally was postponed; later, organizers began to take issue with some of the agreed-upon stipulations, requesting they be amended or discarded. (See “UTV Rally ‘on thin ice’” in the Oct. 8, 2020 edition.)
No agreement could be reached in time for the rescheduled date of the 2020 Rally; eventually, it was canceled altogether.
Grand County officials denied RotR a special events permit for their 2021 gathering as conflicts continued to simmer and citizen complaints about noise from UTVs on residential streets surged. (See “Commissioners wrap up the year; Rally on the Rocks permit denied” in the Dec. 17, 2020 edition.)
County commissioners also voted to enact a moratorium on new UTV guide and rental businesses as well as UTV-based events, hoping to buy time to work on a solution to the noise complaints that will be fair to businesses, recreationists, and residents.
The turmoil didn’t end there: when RotR announced their intention to move their event just over the county line but still use Bureau of Land Management trails that lie within Grand County, the Grand County Commissioners called on the BLM and neighboring San Juan County not to welcome the event on their lands.
The San Juan County Commission did decline to lease county property to RotR to hold their event; the location of the current intended headquarters is on private land. (See “San Juan denies Rally on the Rocks lease” in the Jan. 8, 2021 edition.)
Rally on the Rocks, along with a UTV advocacy group called BlueRibbon Coalition hired a legal firm to appeal the denial of the RotR permit.
In a Jan. 18 letter to Grand Commissionfeb Administrator Chris Baird, Krystaly Koch, a representative from the law firm Freeman Lovell, advised the county that if the decision was not reversed by Jan. 28, the RotR and BlueRibbon Coalition were prepared to file a lawsuit. That letter enumerated several arguments claiming that the permit denial was illegal, unconstitutional, in conflict with relevant state law and outside the scope of the county’s power.
In a response to the letter, County Attorney Christina Sloan pointed out that the deadline to file an appeal had passed and the group had failed to pay a $750 appeal fee.
“Regrettably, we continue to battle communication and respect issues with your clients, which leads to continued actions that further erode the relationship,” Sloan wrote. In an email to the Moab Sun News, Sloan said she has spoken with RotR’s legal council and she does not expect litigation.
As of Feb. 3, however, the RotR website still has a link to a BlueRibbon Coalition donation page asking off-road enthusiasts to contribute to a legal fund to “help fight against unlawful OHV bans in Moab.”
The page reads, in part, “We hope that Grand County will reverse course and approve the permit for Rally on the Rocks, and we can continue working with them to find solutions to the challenges that come from explosive growth in tourism in a way that doesn’t violate fundamental, Constitutionally protected rights. However, we also recognize that if they don’t willingly cooperate, our only recourse is to challenge their actions in Court.”