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On our front page this week
April 7, 2021

 

 

  • Sand fans return to Little Sahara for Easter weekend; no major incidents reported

By Myrna Trauntvein
TN Correspondent

There were 25,000 sand fans at Little Sahara Recreational Area for Easter weekend and the crowd was family-oriented.

“It was a reasonable crowd,” said Doug Anderson, Juab County Sheriff.

Easter 2020, the desert playground was closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but Juab County’s sand dunes saw a return of visitors this year after a year of social distancing and fear.

“As of Sunday night, there were no deaths and no critical injuries,” he said. “Our goal is to provide a safe environment where families can visit and have a good time together.

He said that the sheriff’s office and other agencies had the goal to help people have fun but do it safely and to have a place where families could enjoy a safe weekend.

He said that there was personnel from Juab County, Millard County, Utah Highway Patrol, Bureau of Land Management and Utah State Parks.

At the beginning of the holiday, Brent Pulver, chief deputy/undersheriff for the Juab County Sheriff’s Office, said that the sheriff’s office had not had any idea what to expect this year, however, they had planned for a return of visitors because of the reopening of the dunes in February.

The usual crowd of sand fans numbers in the 20,000 range on Easter weekend to ride the dunes and camp so the count was up 5,000 from recent years.

“It basically becomes a city at the Sand Dunes,” said Pulver.

The city at the recreation site outnumbers the residents of Juab Count ywhich came in at 12,017 in the last census. In some good weather years in the past, the number of fans has been at 40,000 or more.

The weather forecast for the weekend was for warm and pleasant spring weather.

“I was taking with one of my sergeants and he agreed that we had a good family-oriented crowd,” said Anderson. “There were less people at Sand Mountain and more people camping with their families in the campground areas.”

Anderson said that each year the sheriff’s office works to make the area one that is safe for families and for those who are interested in having a good place to enjoy being outdoors.

“We were prepared for whatever number showed up,” said Pulver. “The Juab County Sheriff’s Office was ready.”

There were ambulances on standby, extra officers and even a medical helicopter for emergencies.

As always, Hannah Lenkowski, BLM West Desert District Public Affairs Specialist indicated, the extra law enforcement will help keep things in control.

“We want people to have fun, but we want people to do it safely,” said Pulver.

In the past, there have been fatal and injury accidents.

“I can’t even count how many notifications I have done over my career,” said Pulver. “Those are hard, just to even find the words, to tell a family that their loved one has passed away. Especially from something as senseless as an ATV crash.”

Rider safety is being stressed by all agencies.

“We want everyone to keep that message in mind,” said Stephanie Graham, Bureau of Land Management spokesperson. “We want visitors to please be careful.”

A safety message was also available at the site. Reducing the use of alcohol by minors is a high priority and, since lots of children ride and camp with their families, Amanda Reynolds with the Juab County Jump Coalition said.

“The number one thing that helps prevent underage drinking is the kids knowing that their parents don’t want them to,” said Reynolds

The coalition teamed up with the group Parents Empowered to offer the program at Little Sahara.

“Our number one focus out here is safety,” said Pulver.

The Bureau of Land Management set up some safety boundaries in the process. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) implemented Phase 2 Restrictions for COVID-19 safety.

“That does have to do with camping, keeping some physical distancing between your camps, with group sizes-- we’re asking folks to limit group sizes to 50 people or less,” said Lenkowski.

Everyone was asked to wear masks when going in the visitor’s center, she said.

“We are really excited at the Bureau of Land Management to welcome the public back to Little Sahara for Easter weekend this year,” she said.

There are still coronavirus restrictions in place, she said.

All four campgrounds, White Sands, Oasis, Jericho and Sand Mountain were open and all had vault toilet access.

Little Sahara Recreation Area (LSRA) is 60,000 acres of sagebrush flats, juniper-covered hills, and free moving sand dunes located in Juab County. Visitors frequent the recreation area for the challenges of climbing the 700-foot tall Sand Mountain, a network of dirt trails around Black Mountain, low-lying dunes for beginners and the White Sand Dune bowls.