||Coral Pink Sand Dunes State ParkFor solving the problems of motorized versus non-motorized recreation users, Tim Smith, head ranger at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is just the man.Established as a state park in 1963, most of its 3,000 acres consists of the most wonderful coral pink colored sand dunes. Historically, the use of the park has been off-road vehicles. But according to Tim, the use is changing to the point that now over 80 percent of the people visiting the park come for the scenery.
I arrived at the Park on a Saturday afternoon. Tim Smith had a beautiful campsite waiting for us. The first thing I noticed was how nice the sites were.
The restrooms, our second stop, were clean and equipped with three shower stalls.
Off to the sand dunes we went. The children’s eyes lit up as they came to the top of a small ridge and could see for the first time the size and expanse of the dunes.
Three hours went by as if it had been minutes while we jumped, dived, plunged and rolled over , through, around and inside the sand dunes.
The availability of the shower took on new signficance as it came time to figure out how to get all of the sand out. We had sand in our hair, our mouths and grit in every article of clothing we had on. It was great.
Tim Smith found me on our way back to the campsite and offered me a ride on his sand rail (dune buggy.)
For the next hour I was trasformed into a motorized user. Inside the helmet and strapped into the seat, I began experiencing a solitude that was different from what I was used to. It was enjoyable getting to sections of the sand dunes where there were no track marks and other riders. Tim pointed out the landmarks in the distance and explained about the Park. I did not open my mouth to ask questions because every time I did it seemed to fill with gritty sand coming from the right front tire that had targeted my face.
At the crest of a sand dune overlooking the park we came to a halt. “Before the creation of the park, mainly off-road vehicles were using the area,” began Tim. “We like to feel that we have cut down on the problems and conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. Before the park was established there were no regulations-camping anywhere, riding anywhere, no one enforcing any kind of off highway vehicle laws. We’ve helped the situation between the two groups by establishing some laws. The major portion of the park is pristine, and we’re just trying our best to keep people off the vegetation so that it looks as pristine as possible.”
Tim explained that the rules of the park do not allow any off highway vehicles to be operating after the hours of 10pm or before nine in the morning. No joy riding through the campground is permitted.
I told him of our experience where the children had been frightened by motorized users coming too close. Tim said that the rules require motorized users to remain a minimum of 100 feet away from non-motorized users. There is also a fenced off three acre area where riders are not allowed. The problem is that the big sand dunes are outside this area and opened to both groups.
As far as future plans, Tim said:”We want to start looking at offering more day use; more things to attract casual nonmotorized visitors and more average tourists. Once again, that’s 80 percent of the visitation. Non-motorized people come here to see the scenery and a lot of foreigners. We’re looking at interpretive programs, nature walks, evening programs and a larger trails system.”
Tim made the following comments to non-motorized users. “Expect to see a very beautiful, natural, unique scenic area that allows off-highway vehicle use. If you come in the middle of the week, or the off-season, motorized use will be dimished greatly. If you come on a busy holiday weekend you are going to hear and see a lot more motorized users. If you come in the off-season or the middle of the week, there might not be any of them in the whole campground.”
After dinner the family sat and enjoyed the cool of the evening. My wife and I took a nice walk out to the sand dunes with just the light from the stars to see the outline of the dunes. The sand dunes were so pretty and unusual. It was the end of another perfect day of adventure in southern Utah.