Big mess in Hobble Creek Canyon prompts talk of target shooting ban

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HOBBLE CREEK CANYON — When Steve Taylor wanted to take his dad shooting, he knew an old dirt pit up Hobble Creek Canyon in Utah County would be perfect.

That is, until he saw it.

"It turned into a complete garbage dump,” said Taylor, who lies in Provo and used to visit the area all the time.

Everywhere he looked he saw trash and targets left behind by other shooters. On some days, there were televisions that had been shot. Often, there were couches, small appliances and computers.

"And all the plastic bottles and regular bottles,” said Taylor. “It’s just one big dump pit now.”

So when Taylor ran into George Garcia Tuesday afternoon and heard the U.S. Forest Service is making an effort to remind shooters to clean up their garbage, he was excited.

Garcia is the district ranger for the Spanish Fork Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, and he’s tired of seeing so much trash left behind by target shooters.

"It's a little upsetting," Garcia said. "People come out to the National Forest and leave their trash behind; pretty much every weekend we see more garbage and items."

The number of target shooters in the canyon has increased over the past couple of years, Garcia said. While the activity is legal on Forest Service land, he just wants people to clean up after themselves.

"If the public just brought out one trash bag and spent a couple more minutes cleaning up a site, you wouldn't be able to tell people were target shooting,” he said.

But the problem goes beyond trash. Garcia has also noticed more bullet holes in signs, information bulletin boards and even gates.

“That is costing us a lot of money — one sign can be a few hundred dollars,” he said.

Garcia said the problems increased after Utah County leaders closed some areas west of Utah Lake to target shooting for wildfire concerns and an incident where bullets were shot into a nearby house.

“We think a lot of that use has been shifted on to us,” the district ranger said.

Rangers could shut down the canyon to target shooting, but Garcia said that would be a last option.

For now, he's just hoping shooters take care of it themselves.

“Most of the shooters I run into are nice people who clean up their mess," Garcia said. "It’s just a handful of shooters who are ruining it for everybody else."


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