It came as no surprise when the news broke last week that a vandal or vandals had cut down a new public access control gate on Middle Canyon Road near White Pine campground. Perhaps the only surprise was the malicious act didn’t occur sooner after the gate went into use on June 24.
As reported in last Tuesday’s edition, the control gate, installed by Tooele County and located approximately four miles up the canyon, was discovered vandalized early that morning by a county parks and recreation employee who had gone there to unlock it for the day’s flow of canyon users and campers.
What the employee found, according to Mark McKendrick, Tooele County Facilities Management director, was the metal gate had been cut down. Also, a security camera that monitors the gate was smashed and the memory card removed, he said.
Dave Brown, the county’s trails and canyons coordinator, suggested the vandalism wasn’t the work of bored pranksters, or an angry camper from Salt Lake County via Butterfield Pass who wanted to camp in Middle Canyon.
“This looks like it was somebody that deliberately drove up the canyon with the equipment to cut the fence to make a statement,” he said.
That statement presumably is the control gate, the new tollbooth at the mouth of Middle Canyon that collects $3 per day per car, and canyon access closed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, aren’t welcome. On social media, there has been a mix of praise and criticism toward the county with common themes. The praise: the controls are needed to protect the canyon and make it safe for campers and canyon users. The criticism: Individual rights are being infringed to freely access public land at any time.
Such criticism, too, comes as no surprise, because for some, change is hard. Until June 24 when the tollbooth, control gate, fee and reduced hours went into effect, motorized access into the canyon was 24 hours a day except during winter months. Access was also free, except for camping at designated campsites along the canyon’s road.
Furthermore, when the county installed the tollbooth at Settlement Canyon in 1996, similar criticism was levied against the county, McKendrick said in an interview today. There were acts of vandalism, but facilities or related equipment were not cut down like in Middle Canyon.
McKendrick said the control gate was welded back together and put back into use the same day it was damaged. Since then, additional acts of vandalism at the gate haven’t occurred, he said.
The county is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the damage. So far, no one has come forward, McKendrick said.
It is hoped, however, someone will and justice will be served; the vandalism came as no surprise but that doesn’t condone it. Like at Settlement Canyon, the new tollbooth and control gate at Middle Canyon are needed to reduce crime and keep a valuable outdoor resource from excessive and unmanaged use from Tooele Valley and urban Salt Lake County.
Information about the vandalism can be called in to the Tooele County dispatch non-emergency number at 435-882-5600. And canyon users are encouraged to help the county further improve the canyon’s environs by immediately contacting authorities if illicit activity is observed or has occurred.