With stunning views, a meandering stream and an easy-to-follow trail, Monument Peak Loop is a popular, three-mile route enjoyed by hikers, bikers, riders and OHV drivers.
Some Star Valley residents are concerned that dust, noise and erosion from off-road vehicles is damaging the area and taking away from its natural beauty.
Diamond Point Shadows resident Dan Basinski asked the Star Valley Town Council Tuesday night to consider sending a letter to the Tonto National Forest urging them to designate Monument Peak Loop a non-motorized trail.
The Star Valley council, in a 3-4 vote, declined to suggest the route should be closed to OHVs.
Currently, the Forest Service is working on a travel management plan that would ban cross-country driving by OHVs, and close 280 miles of existing roads. The plan would also open nearly 800 miles of closed roads, and designate 2,600 acres for continued cross-country travel.
“The purpose of this project is to identify changes to the existing motorized transportation system necessary to comply with the requirements of the Travel Management Rule,” the Forest Service said.
Monument Peak Loop is one of the proposed areas up for closure.
“A lot of damage has been done back there through renegade use,” Basinski said. “I do not oppose the use of OHVs — I have one. This is a pearl and we need to preserve it.”
Basinski pointed out the area holds quite a few treasures, including a trail, spring and Indian heritage site. These sites, however, make it a popular place for recreational activities. The increased use of OHVs is making it unsafe for hikers and destroying the natural beauty and silence, Basinski said.
According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, OHV use has increased by 347 percent in Arizona since 1998. Annually, nearly a million visitors use OHVs in the Tonto National Forest. This growth has outpaced the Forest Service’s financial resources to manage it, protect natural resources or to maintain safe and reasonable recreational access.
While the council agreed that the Monument Peak area is a special place to visit, it was split on if it should be restricted to non-motorized use.
“I walk that trail twice a week,” Councilor Gary Coon said.
“I have seen the deterioration over the years. Some areas you can’t even walk in because of the use.”
Coon said he was in favor of restricting motorized use.
“I understand that bikers and motorist have their place, but I don’t think they should be mingled,” he said.
Other councilors felt it was wrong to restrict the area from one user group and not everyone.
“If you restrict for one, you should do it for all,” said Councilor Barbara Hartwell.
Hartwell said hikers do just as much damage, perhaps even more to the heritage sites, because they get closer and take things.
Councilor George Binney said although some OHV drivers are reckless and destructive, others are responsible and have a right to travel freely in the area.
Under the Constitution, the government has no right to restrict movement, Binney said.
Basinski said people’s rights would not be infringed on with the resolution because anyone could still visit the area, just not on a motorized vehicle.
“It is not right that one group can misuse and destroy a trail that three other user groups use,” he said.
“I cannot restrict movement,” Binney said.
Mayor Bill Rappaport said that even if the council adopted the resolution, it would still be up to the Forest Service to designate Monument Peak Loop Trail a non-motorized trail.
“We don’t know what the Forest Service will do,” he said.
Basinski said the town’s support could sway the Forest Service to change the designation.
“They will listen to bordering communities,” he said.
“I think it will be impossible to get a consensus” on this issue, Rappaport said.
Councilor Vern Leis said that he is a passionate quader and opposed to the resolution.
Leis pointed out that he pays permit fees to ride his quad in Arizona and the majority of that money is supposed to be used to repair trails and damaged areas and create new riding areas.
“They need to put the money to work that we have already given them,” he said.
In a 3-4 vote, the council voted against passing the resolution. Rappaport, Coon and Councilor Stephanie Whetten were in favor of restricting the area to non-motorized travel.
Also at the meeting, the council signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with ADOT to provide bridge inspections to the town at no cost.