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Shift in policy will allow ATVs and UTVs in National Parks

Canyonlands National Park (PHOTO: Courtesy of Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Those visiting Utah’s five national parks may soon encounter the unwanted noise of ATVs and UTVs traversing the roadways.

The National Park Service announced a shift in policy that will allow ATVs and UTVs with proper safety equipment to access roads and backroads starting Nov. 1.

The move does not allow for vehicles to venture off road. Motorists who do so will be cited.

The Salt Lake Tribune has reported the change in policy will impact Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, while it remains to be seen if the other three national parks in Utah will notice an impact.

Some have already voiced concerns about the move; general safety being the most pressing.

“You have five rangers at Arches [National Park],” explained Patrick Shea, former director of the Bureau of Land Management. “And you have over ten-thousand visitors on some weekends.”

Additionally, he’s worried about visitors being angry about the noise.

“It creates a real risk, and it does disrupt the quiet solitude that attracts overseas visitors to the United States,” said Shea.

For context, ATVs and UTVs have been allowed in Utah’s 44 state parks for around 10 years.

Those involved in the oversight of that program say minor issues have surfaced.

“Most of the riders and operators of those street legal ATVs and UTVs do want to adhere by the laws,” said Chris Haller, Utah Off-Highway Vehicle Program director.

As far as national park understaffing, he said there is help available.

“We have what’s called off-highway vehicle program trail hosts,” explained Haller. “Those are volunteers who actually provide extra eyes and ears on the ground.”