By Myrna Trauntvein
There were 25,000 visitors at the Little Sahara Sand Dunes on Easter weekend, but the day was much different for the Juab County Sheriff's Office than it has ever been.
"We used to contract with BLM to provide law enforcement at the Dunes on Easter weekend," said Alden Orme, Juab County Sheriff. "What was much different this year was a drastic reduction in deputies keeping things under control."
That meant that his officers spent the weekend in a support role for the county ambulance crew that has a base at the Dunes each year.
Three air ambulances airlifted injured individuals to hospitals along the Wasatch Front.
One of those injured, said Orme, was a Parks and Recreation officer who was chasing a law breaking individual riding a side by side. One of the officers in pursuit rolled his vehicle and punctured an artery in his upper arm.
The officer had to be flown to a hospital for treatment and is expected to fully recover.
"Three ground ambulances and 30 walk-ins were treated by the West Juab EMTs who were manning the EMT station at the Dunes," said Orme.
He said that there were eight federal, four BLM and four Forest Service law enforcement officers who performed the necessary police work usually done by his office each year.
"To me," said Orme, "it makes more sense to keep the contract with my office in place."
He said his officers and the individuals on his posse were trained to work on the sand and were experienced so it made sense to him to use the experienced over the unexperienced.
Where he used to have 200 deputies and law enforcement officers from other agencies patrolling in the past he is now reduced to just two dozen.
"We are a small rural county and we just don't have the necessary funding to do the law enforcement work we have done in the past without the BLM contract and they have canceled that," said Orme.
Fortunately there were no deaths at the Dunes this year, he said, and the weekend was mostly calm with families at the recreation site enjoying the sand.
"It was mostly a good weekend," he said.
"With the reduction in man power, we are hampered in our ability to deal with the underage drinking, the drug abuse and the ATV riding while impaired," he said.
Orme said the next holiday when large numbers of visitors come to the area is Memorial Day weekend.
"We have a lot of tourists and people seeking recreation in our county all during the summer," said Orme. "We have a lot of popular places to visit."
That is a continuing challenge for law enforcement.