Bonanza Flat Crowds Causing Parking, Trash Issues
Crowds at popular outdoor spots around Summit and Wasatch counties have grown dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic, and the increased use is putting stress on the land and parking lots.
In the past year and a half, the outdoors has become unprecedentedly popular.
“During COVID, we saw statewide a 300% increase in recreational use,” said Wendy Fisher, Utah Open Lands executive director.
Her land trust works to preserve natural areas, including the Bonanza Flat Conservation Area.
She said while she likes to see people enjoying themselves there, the increase in traffic has caused problems. People are leaving trash behind, removing signs for trail closures and parking where they shouldn’t.
“What people have to understand,” she said, “is that we’re also doing some re-vegetation and restoration. Some of it is more passive by just trying to keep people off. For some of it we’re putting in vertical incursions, re-seeding, all of those sorts of things, but that’s really what we’re suffering from, is a lack of respect, a lack of regard.”
She said the recent influx is difficult to manage, and rules are hard to enforce. But these issues are important to address, because she doesn’t see the crowds going away anytime soon.
“This I don’t think is going away. All of these areas that we love, these open spaces, they’re just more of a challenge because people are out there more often. If it gets too bad, there will be trails that will be closed, and that’s going to be upsetting for people, there’s no doubt about it. We’re working on the enforcement. It is something that we knew would take several years to get under control,” Fisher said.
Wasatch County recently placed signs along Guardsman Pass that say cars parked on either side of the road will be towed. Summit County and Park City are also involved in trying to curb overcrowding there.
The two counties are working on an agreement for their sheriffs’ departments to share jurisdiction.
As of now, Wasatch County is the primary enforcer and bears most of the responsibility. Park City has also hired two rangers to enforce parking violations.
According to Wasatch County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Josh Probst, his deputies’ main focus is parking. Most complaints they receive are about cars parked on Guardsman Pass that force traffic into a single lane.
Between regular patrolling and responding to calls, Wasatch County Sheriff’s deputies are in the Bonanza Flat area once or twice a day, and sometimes more often on weekends.
Probst said it’s tricky for his department to enforce all the rules there. For example, there have been reports of people camping overnight, which is prohibited.
Some people have been building fires, which are outlawed, according to Fisher.
“It’s definitely possible that cars could park overnight, and that could go undetected,” Probst said.
Probst added that bigger crowds, as well as the side effects of that, have ramped up all over Wasatch County.
To learn more about Utah Open Lands, visit utahopenlands.org.