After years of disputes and analyses, the controversial Coyote Canyon trail was reopened for motorized use on Saturday, May 5. The action by the Moab office of the Bureau of Land Management drew mixed opinions from area property owners and four-wheeling enthusiasts.
The BLM, will update its resource management plan to officially designate a .65-mile portion of Coyote Canyon off of Black Ridge Road as a multiple-use trail, BLM officials said.
In 2008, property owners Kiley Miller and John Rzeczycki requested the trail be closed to motorized vehicles because of disturbances they were experiencing as a result of the traffic. It was also discovered that the trail had not been included in the 2008 RMP. Outdoor recreation manager for the BLM, Katie Stevens, said the omission of the trail was an oversight during the RMP process.
In order to settle the matter, address dissatisfaction by the four-wheeling community and property owners, and determine the fate of the trail, the BLM conducted an environmental analysis, including a public comment period, for Coyote Canyon and surrounding areas.
Stevens said the BLM received more than 100 letters from supporters and opponents regarding the trail. Based on those letters and the environmental assessment, the decision was made to grant use of the trail with tight restrictions, she said.
“Our goal was to find a compromise. Coyote is open on a limited permitted basis, and permits are only granted two days of the week,” Stevens said. “We chose Friday and Saturday with the thought of putting the use days together and bothering the neighbors as little as possible.”
Only one group at a time is allowed to use the trail on each of the two permitted days, according to the restrictions. Groups must register with the BLM and may only have a maximum of seven vehicles in their convoy. The trail is open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and will be open for use from Feb. 15 to Nov. 30.
“We did a lot of infrastructure before any vehicles were allowed, and we removed all the camping from the front part of the road all the way down to the highway,” said Stevens. “There will no longer be parking at the trailhead, and the trailhead has been fenced off to only have one gated entrance that is locked and requires a combination.”
The new restrictions also outlaw travel on any part of the canyon outside the trail, such as Kane Creek Wash and uphill climb areas, and barricades have been placed, according to Stevens.
Some property owners who opposed the reopening of the trail said they are pleased with the restrictions and hope the damage and high-volume traffic issues will be a thing of the past.
“For this area in particular, I’m delighted at the structure. They [BLM] have shut parts of the trail down and protected it from renegade users and the possible destruction that comes with that,” said Rob Kerchen, who has owned property near Coyote Canyon for the past 15 years. “The BLM did an amazing job, and this could be a model for managing other places. I feel positive about this canyon for the first time in 15 years.”
Miller and Rzeczycki feel differently, and said the reopening is a “giveaway” to the jeeping community.
“We were there for eight years, went through the process they told us to in order to get it shut down, and then they just open it up again,” said Rzeczycki. “Now, our property is boxed in and it will create more traffic.”
Miller said the damage to the area is a major concern for her, saying both the vegetation and the deer habitat in the canyon have been impacted in the past by the traffic.
“I’m just sad… really sad. I went down there a couple of months ago, and the plants and flowers were starting to come back,” Miller said. “Nature was taking itself back, and now it will be destroyed again.”
Friends-for-Wheelin’ president, Jeff Stevens (no relation to Katie Stevens), said his group will be highly involved in the maintenance and monitoring of the trail at least once a month. The Friends-for-Wheelin’ group was vocal about their desire to use the trail, one of the most challenging and enjoyable trails in the country, according to Jeff Stevens.
“We were a little disappointed that there are so many restrictions, but we are very happy that we get to use it again,” he said. “We understand why the restrictions are there, but it would be nice to have it open more than two days and [not] have to limit it to seven vehicles, but we are ok.”
Property owner Rick Lamb said he would have preferred no use, but he believes the Friends-for-Wheelin’ group has done a good job. He also commended the BLM for controlling the use in the area.
“It’s as best as can be expected,” Lamb said. “If the regulations are followed, I’ll be happy.”
Additional information about the new restrictions to the Coyote Canyon trail is available at the Moab Field Office page of the BLM website, www.blm.gov.
– Moab Times-Independent