It looks likes an upcoming election, but the signs springing up in yards all over town are part of a different campaign.
“Throttle Down in Town” is an effort launched toward educating visitors about how their actions behind the wheel affect local residents. Though originally aimed at noise reduction, the campaign has been expanded to include information about what constitutes a street-legal, off-highway vehicle.
The campaign is being produced by a small committee of residents, business owners and elected officials who have partnered with local law enforcement, Utah State Parks and the Moab Area Travel Council.
Grand County Council member Mary McGann said that the focus is on education and that the group is taking a soft approach.
“We want people to know they are welcome, but also remind them that there are residents here who aren’t on vacation,” McGann said. “We are asking that they show some respect. Please slow it down when you are in town.”
McGann said the committee grew out of a meeting last June when residents demanded that something be done about the increase of noise and traffic following record-breaking visitation over Memorial Day weekend. Utah State Rep. Brad King, D-Price, attended the meeting, and recommended local solutions to the problem, such as enforcing noise ordinances and speed limits, since the Utah Legislature passed a law in 2008 that allowed off-highway vehicles on city streets.
McGann said that’s where the idea for an education program came from.
“After the meeting, I swam around in my head for a month or two and then I got some key people together and we got the travel council involved,” McGann said. “Then we came up with a slogan.”
Moab Area Travel Council Executive Director Elaine Gizler said that her office is happy to be involved with the program and to pay for the printing of promotional materials, since it is the one bringing the tourists here.
“We want the tourists to come here,” Gizler said. “We want them to enjoy the landscape and the community, and we want them to abide by state laws. I think if we have that happen, everybody will be happy.”
Gizler said the committee is made up of “a really great mix of people,” and that the program has so far been very well-received. She encouraged people to stop by the Travel Council office at 84 N. 100 East to pick up a free sign for their yards.
The committee met on Monday, April 25, to discuss the next phase of the campaign, which will include posters and pamphlets to be distributed around town. Other ideas include a “throttle down” banner across Main Street during ATV and UTV events, as well as flags on the machines themselves.
Committee member and Moab City Council member Kalen Jones, who has been designing the graphics for the campaign, said that one of the more difficult things to communicate is whether or not a vehicle is legal to drive on the street, particularly if that vehicle is from out of state.
“Even if they have plates that allow them to ride on-highway in another state, they still have to comply with Utah on-highway equipment requirements,” he said.
Jones said that out-of-state operators may need to get a non-resident user permit unless the state they are from is officially recognized as a “reciprocity state” under Utah law. Posters around town will tell people where they can get those permits, and a list of reciprocating states can be found on the Utah State Parks and Recreation website at:stateparks.utah.gov/resources/off-highway-vehicles/ohv-registration-and-permits/.
Utah State Parks Lt. Tony White said that his agency is responsible for the management and enforcement of off-highway vehicle use, but that traditionally, its jurisdiction has been on “dirt, sand and gravel.”
“We’re seeing growth and a new dynamic in these areas,” White said. “Now that you see these things on the street and at drive-up windows, there are going to be a few growing pains.”
White said his agency will be collaborating with local law enforcement, and that educating off-highway vehicle drivers is key.
“A little bit of throttle reduction results in a huge noise reduction,” he said.
Committee member and Moab Cowboy Country Offroad Adventures owner Kent Green agreed.
“If you just reduce that speed by five miles per hour, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
Green said that as a “safety nut,” he’s excited about the program, and that the committee has been working very hard to come up with solutions.
Green has been offering guided UTV side-by-side tours for six years and knows that not everyone likes them. But he said they offer a great recreational experience, and that they are a valuable component to Moab’s economy.
“You can take your families, it’s got an open cab and you can feel the air,” he said. “And it’s fun. It’s like having a golf cart on steroids.”
He said that in the end, it’s always a few bad apples who spoil it for everyone, and that it’s usually young adult males ripping up the countryside, or revving it up in town.
“But we try to educate everybody,” he said. “This is our public land. We need to take care of this or we’re going to get shut down.”
Green also wanted to point out that the campaign isn’t just directed at side-by-sides.
“They’re what really brought this to a head, but this campaign is directed to everyone who visits Moab,” he said. “It all just comes down to communication. There’s enough room here for everyone.”