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Kicked off trails: Utah County bans boarders for safety reasons

SHARE Kicked off trails: Utah County bans boarders for safety reasons

PROVO — Utah County longboarders, your worst nightmare is about to come true.

The Provo River Parkway in Provo Canyon — and all other Utah County-run trails, for that matter — is about to become off-limits to skateboarding, longboarding and other similar sports.

Skate- and longboarders will no longer be allowed to ride on the county's trail system because of safety issues, according to an ordinance unanimously approved Wednesday by the Utah County Commission. Bicycles and roller skates are still permitted, but a 15 mph speed limit will be imposed and enforced on those devices.

"The main issue I see here is we're talking about those things that don't have any brakes, because there have been problems with bicycles on the trail as well, but we're not eliminating those," said Commissioner Larry Ellertson. "I hate to take away more and more freedom of people, yet safety is premier, and we need to be safe with these things."

The ordinance, which will become effective as soon as Aug. 10, was inspired by an accident that happened on the asphalt trail by the Provo River — a mecca for those who love to longboard — in the beginning of July.

According to Paul Hawker, associate Utah County engineer and county traffic investigator, on July 1 an accident occurred between a group of longboarders who were coming down the trail and a group of sightseers who were walking up the trail. The longboarders were not able to avoid the group of people, and subsequently a child was injured and taken to the hospital.

On that day, the officer who handled the accident warned the group of longboarders — about 70 of them, Hawker says — that they could lose their right to ride in the canyon. Since then, rumors in the longboarding community have circulated on blogs and other Web sites that the ordinance was imminent.

"The safety concern is, now we know that there have been problems, and we can't just ignore it," Ellertson said.

Hawker said at least four written complaints about longboarders on the trail have been received by the county in the past three months. The complaints have added to the county's desire to avoid future accidents, because of the thousands of people who use the trail on a daily basis, longboarders are in the minority, Hawker says.

"You go up there in the midmorning and there are women with strollers that are using (the trail)," Hawker said. "You'll see the joggers, the bicycler and the runners. In the late afternoon, you'll see a lot of walkers and people who just want to get out of the heat. We have thousands of people up there, and I don't see longboarders in the majority."

The county ordinance applies to all of the county's trails, including other popular skateboarding areas in Hobble Creek Canyon and along the Jordan River.

To Colby Manscill, who rode his longboard down Provo Canyon Wednesday, closing the popular route to skaters would be more dangerous to people who are interested in the sport. Instead of coasting up and down the mountain trail with people who are walking and biking, the skateboarders would be pushed to ride on city streets, alongside much more dangerous vehicles.

"For how many kids that (skateboard on the trail), I don't see why they would ban it," Manscill said. "It's a huge social thing and an easy way to get to know people. ... It's just as safe as anything else."

Kirtley Sorensen, who, with a helmet and a water container, also rode her longboard in Provo Canyon on Wednesday, agreed with Manscill. Instead of banning the sport outright, the county should consider choosing restrictive hours, Sorensen said.

That kind of input is exactly what the county wants to hear, Ellertson says. Though it is not required, the County Commission has opted to hold a public meeting to follow up on the ordinance and gather feedback from anyone in the community who has an interest in the county's trails.

"I'm uncomfortable (enacting the ordinance) without forcing us to include the user groups (skateboarders, hikers, bikers)," Ellertson said. "If (skateboarders) can come in and demonstrate to us that (skateboards and longboards) can be controlled in a responsible way as it pertains to speed, then we'll look at some of the wording and we can change (the ordinance)."

The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 29 in the Utah County Commission chambers, located in Room 1400 in the Utah County Administration Building,100 E. Center Street in Provo.

E-mail: achoate@desnews.com