With the closures and other changes brought on by COVID-19, with people looking for things to do, the recreational facilities around Pineview Reservoir have seen a big uptick in use this summer.
A few fixes and upgrades are in the offing as a result, including expanded parking in some areas. But the situation has officials nervous, wondering how to manage the increased traffic in the short term and wondering about possible long-term solutions.
“We’re loving Pineview to death,” said Utah Rep. Steve Waldrip, who lives in the Eden area and has gotten plenty of feedback on the issue from locals.
The crowds at the varied Pineview beaches and other facilities have been unprecedented compared to other summers, said Sean Harwood, head of the U.S. Forest Service‘s Ogden Ranger District. “We’ve never seen numbers like this and it’s due to COVID. There just isn’t anything else to do,” he said.
As for the changes to deal with big crowds, most immediate will be a new parking area at Middle Inlet, a beach area north of Huntsville, which should be open over the weekend, Harwood said. An open area near the entry to the beach off 7100 East will be converted to a parking lot, able to accommodate an estimated 30 to 50 cars.
More parking will come to the Spring Creek beach area south of Middle Inlet, probably by this fall, and around 30 new parking spots will come to Pelican Beach between those two, perhaps by this coming fall, though maybe not until next year.
A few miles to the east at Causey Reservoir, a new dirt parking area is taking shape in an open area south of the dam there. It should open over the weekend, with enough space for perhaps 40 cars, give or take.
“All we’re doing is removing the vegetation so we can park in there. ... There’s not going to be any lines, there’s not going to be any barriers or anything,” Harwood said. More comprehensive improvements are in the works to address the increasing popularity of Causey, used by paddle boarders, kayakers and others, and the new dirt parking area is meant as a stopgap measure ahead of that.
Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins said Causey, like Pineview, has seen a big uptick in use among people searching for things to do given limitations on activity brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Forest Service owns much of the land around Pineview and Causey, which sit within the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, but the agency is partnering with Weber County on the varied initiatives.
“We’ve got the same problem at Causey. They’re just using it to death,” Jenkins said.
With more people come trash, and new dumpsters are to be placed at Pelican Beach and Windsurfer Beach on the west side of Pineview Reservoir, off State Road 158.
“The Ogden Valley area is a beloved gem of this state. The Weber County Commission’s priority is making sure the area is loved appropriately and has the tools it needs to facilitate its inevitable popularity,” said Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer.
Still, the fixes won’t be easy for some of the issues.
Notably, the popularity of Port Ramp, a boat offloading area north of Windsurfer Beach on the west side of Pineview, has caused traffic backups on S.R. 158 as autos hauling boats wait to get in. On July 4, the traffic was backed up from Port Ramp all the way to the Pineview dam at State Road 39, hindering the ability of some locals from the Eden and Liberty areas to get home.
“I think we’re seeing a new level of use,” Waldrip said.
Traffic typically backs up on other weekends, too, due to boaters heading to Port Ramp, though not to the level of the Independence Day activity. What’s more, motorists are increasingly parking along S.R. 158 to get into Windsurfer Beach because the lot there fills up, a potential safety hazard.
“There aren’t a lot of great options,” Waldrip said, mulling possible fixes. One idea to alleviate S.R. 158 congestion due to the popularity of Port Ramp would be opening an area off the highway to accommodate the many autos and boats as they wait to get in.
The area around Pineview has been getting more and more use as the population grows along the Wasatch Front, and Harwood sees this season’s influx as a harbinger of things to come on U.S. Forest Service land. “This is giving us an idea of what the future in the forest looks like,” he said.
In light of social-distancing recommendations from health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19, signage has been placed at areas around Pineview as reminders on the matter to the public. The message doesn’t always sink in, though, but Harwood said Forest Service personnel and concessionaires working the beaches don’t take it on themselves to speak out to beachgoers.
“By doing that it would just get confrontations,” Harwood said.