“After due deliberation, the County Council chose to support the recommendation of the Committee to continue permitting the event, as long as the event organizers comply with the County’s special events ordinance and the reasonable requests made of them,” the council stated in a letter.
Held over five days in May, Rally on the Rocks typically garners more than 1,000 registered vehicles, which organizers say represents more than 5,000 participants who come to drive their UTVs and side-by-sides on popular trails in the surrounding area.
In July, mayor Dave Sakrison — on behalf of the city — penned a letter to the county, broaching concerns related to noise, public safety and quality of life issues associated with the event’s motorized vehicles.
“It is the opinion of the [city’s] leadership that the event is significantly, negatively impacting the quality of life for our residents and the quality of experience for any other visitors to Moab not affiliated with the [Rally on the Rocks] event,” Sakrison said.
The city then solicited comments about the event, garnering 42 letters in favor of no longer permitting the event and 37 letters in favor of retaining it.
Many residents who favored discontinuing the event’s permit cited issues with noise, with some people stating they have “had enough” of the machines and have come to “dread” Rally on the Rocks every year.
In a letter approved Sept. 5, the county council told Sakrison that they would like to continue “brainstorming solutions” regarding UTV noise. However, they did not feel that discontinuing the Rally on the Rocks permit “for five days of the year will solve the UTV noise problem in our community.”
Council member Curtis Wells attributed the brunt of UTV noise issues to rented machines and “weekend warriors.”
“A lot of UTVs that are disruptive that I’ve come across — they’re rented UTVs from a weekend warrior that’s come to Moab and they think they’re in some kind of ‘Mad Max’ episode,” Wells said.
Favoring mitigation efforts over discontinuing their permit, Wells argued that Rally on the Rocks is important to the overall economy.
“Rally on the Rocks, they pay for their share of escorts,” Wells said. “Yeah there’s lot of noise generated but this is part of the economy... there’s a lot of mitigation work that can be done besides just getting rid of them in an irrational manner.”
But council member Evan Clapper — the other vote against permitting the event — said he read the county’s special events ordinance closely while taking community’s concerns into consideration.
“[My vote] was about quality of life for our community,” Clapper said. “I felt a strong response from the community and I didn’t want to ignore it.”
During their meeting Sept. 5, council member Greg Halliday, who also voted against permitting the event, asked Michelle Hill, the county’s special events committee coordinator if the county could “enforce the noise ordinance concerning the vehicles involved with Rally on the Rocks.”
Although Moab has a noise ordinance in effect in residential neighborhoods from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and not before 9 a.m. Sunday, Grand County does not have any legislation on the books related to noise.
“We would first have to have a noise ordinance,” Hill told Halliday.
In order to reduce UTV noise, council member Mary McGann promised to focus her efforts on lobbying companies that make the motorized vehicles.
Last year, McGann, along with city council members and local businesses, spearheaded the “Throttle Down in Town” campaign that aimed to spread a message of respecting local neighborhoods and understanding the rules and regulations of street-legal ATVs and UTVs.
“If they stop making them noisy, [it] will make a big difference,” McGann said. “The companies that rent them and do the tours do not like the noise as well.”
Moab police chief Jim Winder told The Times-Independent Sept. 6 that he will meet with McGann imminently in order to “re-invigorate” prior campaigns related to noise and motorized vehicles.
“We are reinvigorating several initiatives in light of all these conversations,” Winder said.
Up for discussion, Winder noted, is “the greater involvement of [UTV] manufacturers and the businesses that promote them.”