Advocacy Alert: Help Save Red Cliffs Desert Reserve Trails for Mountain Biking

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Hey Utah Mountain Bikers —

Hi, it’s Uncle Knux. Come on in, there’s beer in the cooler and we’ll have some refreshments when this is all over, but first we need to chat.

[Editor's Note: For more information, see https://savepioneerpark.org]

You see, as a mountain biker, you need open space to enjoy your sport, to get your shred on, to pedal till your lungs scream, whatever your chosen cycling poison is, you need space, wide open space. In Utah, that means you need public lands. Currently, we have lots of open space, lots of public lands. Unfortunately, many of our elected officials are hell bent on following California’s lead and doing everything they can to encourage suburban sprawl. You know, the stuff of endless road construction, houses instead of space and malls. You all know we need our malls.

Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff
Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff

I know all of you riders in Northern Utah love coming down south. And why wouldn’t you? We have killer trails and we have lots of open space. A good chunk of those trails are protected and made possible because they fall within reserves. All the trails in Santa Clara? Those are located in the Santa Clara River Reserve. Care to shred the Claw? Yup, the Bear Claw Poppy trail and all of its off shoots exists because it sits in the protected Bear Claw Poppy Reserve. What about all those trails through the iconic red rocks of St. George and Washington? Again, that space has only been preserved because it is a National Conservation Area, the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff
Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff

The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve (RCDR) has a lot of trails in it. Those most loved by mountain bikers are Prospector, Church Rocks, Paradise, City Creek, Broken Mesa and Icehouse. One of the best parts of the RCDR is its continuous nature. One can jump on Prospector and heading Southwest ride only dirt through Grapevine, Powerline, T-Bone, Pioneer Hills, City Creek and in Paradise. It’s actually our favorite way to end the popular Turkey Farm Loop.

Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff
Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff

The Reserve has been under attack pretty much from its inception. The desire to develop everything (see above about endless sprawl) is strong in Washington County. Our elected officials are giddy about turning this place into the next Salt Lake Valley or even worse, Los Angeles (they are pretty much following the LA County play book to a tee, see Lake Powell Pipeline). And I get it, there’s money to be made. Can you imagine what a view lot on Church Rocks would sell for? I think you get it.

Unfortunately, all that money that could be made is really just trading our biggest asset, our open space and iconic red desert, for McMansions and pavement.

Erik Peterson sang in Mischief Brew’s Love and Rage, “And the greatest of all historical shams is believing you cannot do something you can.”

Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff
Photo courtesy Lukas Brinkerhoff

We are currently amid a fight to save the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. County Officials, UDOT and our Congressman are hell bent on pushing a road through the Reserve. This road, known as the Northern Corridor, would start at the top of Washington Parkway and push right into our trails. It would become the bottom of Broken Mesa/Icehouse, eliminate Powerline and T-bone and end back at Red Cliffs Parkway just above Pioneer Park by Pioneer Hills Trailhead.

[Editor's Note: For more information, see https://savepioneerpark.org]

It’s easy to look at these instances and feel like it’s impossible to win. Not only do those we oppose seem to have all the power, but there’s that ever present bureaucratic inertia (if UDOT doesn’t build roads, it doesn’t have a reason to exist) we have to contend with, but history is on our side.

You see, this isn’t the first time the Northern Corridor has been pushed. No, this fight has been going on for almost 20 years. And every single time, the people have spoken, and the road has been kept out of the Reserve.

You know you are winning when those you oppose begin trying to circumvent the public process. Congressman Stewart has introduced a bill that would do just that. Instead of allowing the road to go through a NEPA process including public comments and protests, it would be pushed through as a legislative move.

Now, mountain bikers, this is where you come in. You might be thinking that this doesn’t affect you, but this is your land. The Northern Corridor isn’t dissecting land owned by the county or a city or even private individuals (while there are private inholdings that could benefit from this road), it’s your land. You have a right to speak up and be part of the process that will ultimately determine if this road happens or not. You are a public landowner and it’s time to stand up for that land and oppose those who would give it away far too cheaply.

So, what can you do? It’s actually a pretty easy process. It’s simply commenting to the BLM, signing some petitions and putting numbers behind the message that we do not want a road through our desert. Fire up the internet box and go to savepioneerpark.org. The front page includes a link to a To Do List. Go there and follow the steps. Easy peasy.

[Editor's Note: For more information, see https://savepioneerpark.org]

This fight won’t be over when we stop this road once again. Attacks on our open space, our public lands are going to continue. We have to make sure that we stay vigilant and active to ensure our voices are heard when it comes to our state. If we don’t, there’s a chance we will lose all these amazing places. Access to our land stops when it becomes privately held.

Alright, I see you’re getting antsy. The cooler is right over there, grab a beer and a cookie, just don’t forget to act.

Thanks, Uncle Knux.

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