Thousands descend on Utah’s Little Sahara for Easter weekend

Posted at 9:58 PM, Apr 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-19 16:29:07-04

JUAB COUNTY, Utah --Easter weekend is under way, and one of the most popular places in Utah to spend the holiday is Little Sahara Park in Juab County. But, will a cut in funding and a reduced patrol force impact visitors?

FOX 13 News is told about 20,000 to 30,000 people will be at Little Sahara over the weekend, and likely thousands more people who didn't want to pay to get into the park will be in the surrounding areas. What's different this year is a drastic reduction in deputies and officers keeping things under control.

Ashley Child has been to Little Sahara over Easter weekend in previous years.

"It's kind of like drag racing but in the dirt," she said.

It's a popular Easter weekend activity at Little Sahara. Thousands of people enjoying their motorized toys on 60,000 acres of sand.

"It's crazy, it's fun, it's a blast," Child said. "Just riding and watching them race all the time and then going out into the dunes, it's a blast. It's a good break from everyday life."

Easter weekend is one of the busiest, and historically dangerous at Little Sahara. What used to be 200 deputies and officers patrolling in the past is now just a couple dozen.

"Due to issues that are out of our control as a local county, as a small rural county, we just do not have that funding: BLM has canceled the contract," said Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme.

The cuts, according to Sheriff Orme, will make it harder for his team to do their job.

"With reduced man power, then our ability to deal with the underage drinking and the drug abuse and the ATV riding while impaired is hindered," he said.

Sheriff Orme says - more than ever - visitors need to familiarize themselves with the sandy terrain and be aware of who and what is around them when riding to reduce the chance of getting hurt.

For those who are enjoying Little Sahara, they said this sandy playground is perfect for Easter. Andrea Mattson is here for the first time.

"Generally, we stay home and spend some Easter quality time with the family, but we decided to make it a little more adventurous this year and I think it's been great."

Emergency medical personnel on scene says there were nine medical calls as of Saturday night.