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Safety is potential concern on Bear Lake beaches

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Legislation could allow people to drive their vehicles onto the beaches at Bear Lake, thereby endangering children and anyone else at play on the beach.

Legislation could allow people to drive their vehicles onto the beaches at Bear Lake, thereby endangering children and anyone else at play on the beach.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Allowing the driving of a motorized vehicle parallel to the beach shoreline of Bear Lake is again under debate by the Utah State Legislature this year. Current law (HB333) and past legislation has only allowed parallel travel on the lake where posted by the State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

This session, two bills have been brought forward to legislate change in the management of the sovereign lands around Bear Lake. HB140 (sponsor Rep. R. Curt Webb, R-Logan) and SB49 (sponsor Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay) share many similarities directed towards generally agreed upon changes to the present law. However, HB140 also significantly opens up the lakeshore to additional public parallel motorized travel.

There are several reasons this does not represent a good change in public policy and why it is not part of the past or present laws. Presently, the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has an active management plan for these sovereign lands including where parallel driving is deemed safe and appropriate and can be changed on a dynamic basis depending upon circumstances at the lake such as changing water levels. HB140 would in a dramatic way open up the lake to more motorized vehicles along already congested beaches.

Increased motorized travel along the shoreline has several inherent risks and dangers. There are real concerns as to the adverse impact this would have on the land, vegetation, fowl and other animals around the lake. The topography is varied with many areas very fragile. Great concern has been expressed by the public including beach front property owners as to the real risk of injury to people on the beach and even those in the motorized vehicles. More difficult enforcement of rules and regulations is inevitable with more traffic.

Adverse ecological impact on the lake due to sanitation, toilet and refuse issues are problems the public surely does not want increased. Not the least concern is the impact more motorized vehicles would have on the overall ambience of the experience by those going to enjoy this beautiful body of water.

The public needs to speak up and be heard if they share concerns that more open and increased parallel motorized travel along the lakeshore of Bear Lake is not in the best interest of the citizens of the state of Utah.

Many parts of HB140 are agreeable to nearly all parties who have studied the issues. However, those parts directed towards more open access to parallel motorized travel should be removed and those parties most directly impacted including the Division of Forestry, municipalities around the lake, nearby property owners and other interested public have the opportunity to develop a consensus about how this important issue should be managed. The results of those efforts, representing input by those with their boots on the ground, should then be considered for legislation to avoid the impression of government going over the heads of the people.

Action directed immediately to your legislators and even the governor's office through email, phone or otherwise will show that the people of the state of Utah are concerned about how this important matter is handled.

Don L. Reese is a physician and property owner in Garden City near the lake, which is where the greatest impact of the proposed legislation would be felt. He has 11 grandchildren who like to play on Bear Lake beaches.