- Sheriff reports "no fatalities" at Little Sahara over Easter weekend
EASTER AT THE DUNES • Only 20,000 camped at the dunes over Easter weekend. In this photo courtesy of Sheriff Orme, Sand Mountain should be called trailer city. Sheriff Orme reports "no fatalities" this year.
By Myrna Trauntvein
This Easter, there were only 20,000 people camped at Little Sahara Sand Dunes in Juab County.
And while that is down from other years, it still puts a strain on law enforcement to manage that many people so that it is a safe environment for families who want to enjoy the area's recreation offerings.
The area, located approximately 31-miles west of Nephi, has long been a favorite with ATV, dune-buggy riders and campers who can travel in-state to the 60,000-acre playground of dunes, trail and sagebrush flats.
"Our numbers were down from last year when we had 25,000 visitors," said Alden Orme, Juab County Sheriff. "We expected more and we are not quite sure why we had less visitors this year because there was perfect weather at the Dunes. It was the best weather I can recall."
Throughout the three-day Easter holiday, said Orme, the weather at the Dunes remained warm and sunny.
"It was a beautiful holiday for families," he said.
Nevertheless, in just two of the three days—beginning on Thursday evening and ending on Sunday—there were 22 individuals booked into Juab County Jail.
"That is a lot of people to book into a small county jail in a short amount of time," said Orme.
The Easter weekend usually begins on Thursday with campers pulling into the area, continues through Friday and Saturday, and ends on Sunday as the area empties of visitors as they head home.
He said that 17 of those 22 arrests were for drug and alcohol violations and the rest were for various violations, such as warrants. There was an assault.
"There were no fatalities," said Orme.
The law has been changed on the way roadblocks can be conducted and so, though Utah County did have a roadblock in that county, Juab did not have one at the Dunes this year. All of the arrests came as a result of patrol work.
There were two accidents that were transported by AirMed, he said. Another 10 individuals were transported by ground ambulance and there were several walk-ins to the EMT station set up at the Dunes.
Some of those were for burns and other minor injuries.
"In all, we had 30 reported medical events," said Orme.
One of those transported by AirMed was injured in an attempted jump on an ATV when the rider came down and impacted his chest on the vehicle on landing. He was transported with severe chest injuries, Orme said.
The second accident occurred when two ATV operators, on separate vehicles, were riding through the sand, hit a blind spot and collided.
Both riders received injuries but one had a compound leg fracture and was transported by air medical helicopter.
Orme said that there were 90 law enforcement officers at Little Sahara this year and they came from various agencies.
"In all, there were 130 people at the Dunes," said Orme.
And while there were less visitors than anticipated, all of the advance planning and help from the various agencies had helped keep the area safe for visitors.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has several people on staff (approximately five) who manage the Little Sahara Recreation area throughout the year and those people are always on-hand to assist with the large influx of people at Easter time.
The BLM also has a 10-member fire crew stationed at the recreation area year-round. Those fire fighters are dispatched throughout the nation for fires but are at the Dunes to help during the Easter weekend.
Other agencies which pitched in to help, said Orme, consisted of the Utah Highway Patrol, the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles, the Utah State Parks, BLM Rangers, and the Juab County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team and JCAT (Joint Criminal Apprehension Team), and his deputies.
West Juab Ambulance Association set up a station at the Sand Dunes, he said, and the UHP kept a helicopter at the site as did AirMed.
The UHP helicopter is there to assist the sheriff in law enforcement endeavors.
He said that all agencies cooperated and that created a well-run team.
"It takes a team effort," said Orme. "My deputies also do a phenomenal job."
His agency has approximately 25 employees, said Orme. There are 11 in corrections operating the jail; two on the drug task force; the county emergency manager; Orme's executive secretary; and nine patrol deputies.
Each of those people must step up during the Easter holiday, he said. But they always do so because they are a good team who work well together to get the job done.
Camps were not just confined to the Little Sahara, he said.
"We also flew the West Desert area in the UHP helicopter," said Orme. "There were lots of camps throughout the area."
He said there were many campers in the Topaz Mountain area, in the Desert Mountain area, and scattered in the West Hills from Dog Valley to the Little Sahara.
"There were families and camps scattered all along the area and there were a lot of camps and ATV riders at Cherry Creek," he said
In addition, there were also campers in the Nephi and Levan canyon areas.
"There were a lot of people taking advantage of the recreation opportunities and the good weather all thorough the whole county," Orme said. "Anytime you get that many people together combined with ATVs and camping, you have to be prepared. But in reality, this was the most clam and trouble free Easter weekend I remember."