Facebook Twitter

Town reins in its Main activity

SHARE Town reins in its Main activity

For as long as there have been warm summer nights and teenage drivers, Main Street has beckoned.

Straight as an arrow, smooth and wide, the main drag through this south Utah County town has for years been a social magnet for the young and their glistening wheels - a mixture of testosterone and gasoline.Doug Allred met his future wife while cruising Main Street.

"We used to go dragging Main every weekend," he said. "Up and down, up and down. We did it to meet other people."

One night he and his friends pulled over to talk with a group of girls standing by the side of the road. His future wife, Barbara Rees, was in the group.

"That was the night of the Junior Prom and they didn't have dates," he said. "Her missionary she had promised to wait for had just left that day."

They began dating and about three years later they married. "We knew we had some growing up to do," he said. That was 15 years ago. Now the couple has two girls, ages 9 and 11.

"Payson was pretty quiet, so we'd go over to Spanish Fork," said Allred, a Payson native.

Flanked by numerous parking lots, Spanish Fork's Main Street tempts teenagers and young adults from as far away as Salt Lake County and the small country towns of Delta and Levan. City officials are well aware of Main Street's seductive popularity.

"You could always go down on Main Street and meet new friends," said City Councilwoman Liz Shepherd, who grew up here. To a teenager, it's the perfect place to go, she said. It's where the action is.

Today, while dragging Main is still popular, it's more difficult to stop and talk.

"About seven or eight years ago it was a real bad problem," said Police Chief Dee Rosenbaum. "We had kids bringing lawn chairs and setting them up in parking lots and alongside roads and (they) were interfering with traffic flow."

So the City Council went to work and passed several ordinances to crimp the teenagers' style. They worked with businesses to post no trespassing signs.

"Sometimes those bigger groups would get together in a parking lot and turn up their stereos," said Rosenbaum. The sound would carry over into residential neighborhoods. The city responded by passing a noise ordinance that banned stereos from being heard more than half a block away.

Police have also gotten more aggressive, albeit selective. While they continue to run people out of posted parking lots after hours, they are more likely to write trespassing violations, said Rosenbaum.

"The cops run them off but then find them in another parking lot," Shepherd said. "Businesses don't want them there."

"It's like playing tag with the officers," said City Councilwoman Thora Shaw.

While many of the businesses along Main Street have posted no trespassing signs banning after hours parking, some don't. Police won't chase people out of parking lots that are not posted, Rosenbaum said.

"They may not be up to any real mischief, but they're causing problems," said Mayor Dale Barney. "Speeding along Main Street is a real problem. If they speed they'll get a ticket."

City ordinances and police aggressiveness have handled the more serious problems, but Main Street still beckons.

"They can't hang out like we used to and not at all after 11 p.m.," Allred said. Spanish Fork now has a strict curfew ordinance.

Then there are the issues of noise and drinking.

"It goes on a lot, but usually no one gets hurt," noted Shaw.

Usually.

A month ago, two youths, 17 and 19, went to 700 West near the city airport to test their muscle cars and their manhood. One was from Woodland Hills, the other from Springville.

They sped northward, a white Ford Mustang and a black Mercury Capri, then whipped around and raced south. Near the end of the race, at 1900 North, a group of teenagers and young adults had gathered to watch the action.

The road at the location curves slightly to the east. Reaching speeds estimated between 70 and 90 miles per hour, the speeding cars failed to negotiate the turn, slipped on gravel and crashed into the people and four parked cars, say police.

Thirteen were injured, two seriously. One girl, sitting in a car that was damaged, climbed out the window of her car and began giving aid to another girl who lay bleeding nearby, police reports said. Four ambulances transported 11 victims to the hospital. Damage to the vehicles reached nearly $15,000, reports indicated. Both drivers were cited for reckless driving.

"I wish there was more we could charge them with," said Rosenbaum. "Young people with cars have always raced and always will, (but) this is the first time spectators have been hurt. This is the first incident of this kind that I'm aware of."

Young drivers meet on Main Street, then drive to a more rural area to race. Police watch for illegal drag racing on isolated roads on the outskirts of town but haven't been successful in catching violators, he said. But they know it goes on. Telltale marks on the pavement leave reminders that they were there.

"We're holding a zero tolerance on illegal activity," said Barney, who has ridden along with police on several Saturday nights. "There's just getting to be a lot of people, and we need to respect (each other's) rights."

"There was always the potential to get in trouble," Allred recalled. He witnessed fights, a few make-shift drag races by "guys with big egos" but never participated.

"I didn't have a car like that. I always borrowed my dad's Datsun."