TOOELE — When bikers, hikers, and campers head into Middle Canyon in Tooele County this summer, they’ll be charged a fee for the first time.
The county plans to use the funds to clean up the popular Oquirrh Mountain canyon and make it safer at night. Canyon users we talked to are ready to pay for a cleaner canyon.
“It’s beautiful,” said Kevin Buckway who lives a few miles from Middle Canyon and regularly enjoys riding his four-wheeler there.
He especially likes the views from the top of the canyon.
When he first heard about the plan for a fee, he didn’t like the idea of paying for this slice of wilderness.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
He says the garbage, the illegal camping, and frightening criminal behavior have gotten out of hand.
“People don’t respect it,” said Buckway. “They tag the rocks with graffiti. They paint on the road. They throw their garbage everywhere. They don’t take care of it like they should.”
Right now, the canyon is gated for the winter at the mouth of the canyon. When it opens for the season around Memorial Day, there will be a new toll booth at the mouth of the canyon, open from 7 AM until 8 PM. Otherwise, the gate will be locked.
The County Commission voted this month to install a toll booth at the canyon’s mouth, and a pay station where the paved road ends further up in the canyon to catch traffic that comes through Butterfield Canyon on the Salt Lake County side.
Middle Canyon will cost $3 for day use, $35 for a season pass. A $50 pass will include nearby Settlement Canyon. There are 43 improved campsites in Middle Canyon that already cost $10 per night. The gates will allow people to exit the canyon at any time.
“The real objective is nighttime safety,” said Dave Brown, canyons and trails coordinator for Tooele County.
He said the biggest problems are garbage dumping, gang activity, drug and alcohol use, and loud racing on the road.
“I don’t want somebody to die up here if I can help it,” Brown said.
Even worse, he’s had several frightening encounters in recent years.
“I had a guy dressed up as a clown point a gun at me – and, I’ve rolled up onto a makeshift altar where an animal was sacrificed,” he said.
Brown said they’ve cleaned up a lot of the worst activity. Now, they want to restore the serenity of the canyon. The money collected from the fees will be put back into maintenance and improvements in the canyon.
“I want it to be clean,” he said. “I want it to be safe. I want you and your daughter and your wife to be able to camp and make memories.”