Crowded trails, campsites increase risk of danger during holiday weekend
US Forest Service officials said they expected crowded trails and campsites in Utah over Memorial Day weekend.
With an increase in the number of people recreating outdoors, some dangers are also increasing.
District Forest Service Ranger Luke Decker of the Spanish Fork District said on busy days parking lots fill up and many people break the rules and park on the roads.
He said it blocks the way for emergency vehicles, like fire trucks and ambulances.
One of the most common problems is that of people leaving their garbage.
“We’ve had several bear issues, even in our campgrounds and day-use areas, where people have started piling their trash around the garbage cans so the bears come in,” Decker said.
The wildlife crews then have to remove the bears and give them another chance in a different area.
Another thing to keep in mind if you are camping this season, he said, is to stick to the designated areas. Decker said people often push campsites over boundaries, compacting more vegetation.
The danger of fire was one of the biggest concerns over the weekend and throughout the summer.
Drought conditions have worsened from the previous year, causing dangerously dry forests and low lake levels – and affecting recreation, wildlife and fire hazards.
“The fishing is awesome,” said Patricia Messer. “The feeling you get when you are a little child, it lasts until you are old.”
Patricia Messer went to Payson Canyon with her family and friends to celebrate her 70th birthday.
She arrived to find the water levels extremely low.
“When we first got there, we were like, ‘Oh, it’s so bad there’s probably no fish in there,’ she said.
Officials said in dry conditions additional precautions needed to be taken – including restriction on explosive targets.
“Over a thousand (burnt) acres that we had last year were setting fires in my area,” Decker said.
He said fireworks are also not allowed and more stringent regulations could be put in place as the summer continues. Rangers were expected to be in force over the weekend, and throughout the season, to enforce the rules.
“Enforcement is usually fines, to begin with,” Decker said. “There are other avenues that can be taken if necessary, but we usually start with education and fines.”
Fines can start from around $ 150 to $ 250 and can develop into a mandatory court appearance.
The large burn scar in the canyon from a fire in 2018 was a constant reminder of the damage a wildfire can cause. Messer said most people love and respect the outdoors, but some people with no experience make mistakes.
“I think there are beginners who don’t know how to put out a fire with water,” she says.
Decker agreed, but said even people experienced in the outdoors leave fires unattended, which could result in tickets.
“Most people would come right here, you would see your water bottles, and they would just throw a water bottle on it and call it okay,” he said.
It could put out the initial flames, but Decker said the embers and coals could continue to burn. He advised campers to pour water first, but keep going.
“Rub a little dirt, put some mud, put some dirt in there. You want to expose the embers below, ”he says.
Despite the dry conditions and low water levels, Utahns can still have fun outdoors and even catch fish.
Whether people are camping, hiking or fishing, the Forest Service has asked recreation to leave nature better than they found it.