ATVs could be coming to Antelope Island State Park

Wednesday , November 08, 2017 - 4:25 PM

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

The Utah Department of Natural Resources is in the early stages of considering limited ATV use on Antelope Island.

The department’s executive director, Mike Styler, asked the Antelope Island State Park director to conduct a feasibility assessment of motorized use of trails by all-terrain vehicles and off-highway vehicles, the Standard-Examiner confirmed. Styler said he expects the assessment results this spring, which would then be passed on to the governor-appointed Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation for consideration.

“We actually went out on four-wheelers and rode around most of island,” Styler said. “We felt there were trails over the top that were probably not appropriate. (But) there were trails that were quite rocky — gravel roads around much of the bottom of the island that would be quite appropriate and would not cause erosion or any problems. With a little trail work, they might work.”

The department isn’t considering free-rein motorized use on the island, Styler added. Rather, ATV trails would only be open to guided tours. 

Advocates of the island and the Great Salt Lake have expressed concern. 

“We don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere,” said Spence Kinard of Friends of Antelope Island. “We’re not opposing something that hasn’t been proposed yet. I can just tell you that if, in fact, there became an active proposal to consider allowing ATVs, whether guided or unguided, we would be opposed. We think it would do irreparable harm to the island environment and the experience people have out there.”

Lynn Blamires, a local ATV enthusiast, said he was aware the Division of State Parks and Recreation had been mulling the idea of ATVs for a while.

“I think that the park facilities on Antelope Island are under used,” he said in an email.

Blamires writes a regular ATV column for the Standard-Examiner. He said a few special ATV riding events on the island might get more Wasatch Front residents exploring and enjoying the park. But he doesn’t want to see regular ATV use on the island.

“I do not see a value in opening an ATV trail system,” he said. “Except for special events, I am in favor of keeping the park closed to ATVs.”

The idea of ATVs on Antelope Island first surfaced around a decade ago, Styler said, when the board was drafting the park’s management plan.

The feasibility assessment is the first step in bringing any change to recreational use at the park. From there, it’s reviewed by the board. If they choose to move forward, the change would be turned over to public comment, Styler said.

“We’re just trying to provide more opportunities for more people so they can have more experiences. We’re getting pressure at all the parks to provide more opportunities,” he added. 

Styler wasn’t sure how many Utah state parks currently allow ATV use, but he said many do. 

Sand Hollow State Park, the second-most popular park in Utah, allows ATV riding. Dead Horse State Park, which counted the most visitors for 2017, does not. 

Antelope Island had 431,190 visitors this past fiscal year, which ended in July. That’s up from 398,147 visitors in 2016 and 380,611 visitors in 2015. 

Around 10 of Utah’s 40 state parks tout ATV riding as an amenity they offer. One park, the Jordan River OHV Park, is entirely dedicated to ATV riding.

The Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation oversees all OHV and ATV use in the state. The division also builds and maintains motorized trails on public lands in Utah, including areas managed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 

“If they can safely develop trails on BLM, Forest Service and other state parks, why not one more state park?” Styler said. 

Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiainthefield or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen

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