Middle Canyon’s new pay for camping program that debuted over Memorial Day weekend came off without a hitch, even as Tooele’s canyons were full to the brim with holiday visitors, an official says.
“We had to close Settlement Canyon to overnight camping and eventually for day use over the weekend,” said Dave Brown, Tooele County trails and canyons coordinator. “There just was no place to park a car even along the road in Settlement Canyon. We directed the overflow visitors to Middle Canyon.”
The gate to Middle Canyon opened for the first time of the season Thursday morning with a new sign announcing Middle Canyon Recreation Area, new regulations and a pay for campsite overnight fee.
Camping in Middle Canyon now costs $10 per night per campsite. There are 42 numbered campsites in Middle Canyon. Campers take an envelope, place the $10 per night fee in it, and deposit the envelope into a sealed drop box.
“I would say about 90 percent of the campsites were full throughout the weekend,” Brown said.
He added campers in Middle Canyon cooperated and responded positively to the new fee.
“Everybody paid without any complaints,” Brown said. “Many said that it was about time we did something to clean up the canyon.”
Middle Canyon had become home to a band of homeless people, rowdy teenagers, and a site for illegal activities, he said.
When the canyon opened on Thursday, Brown escorted 20 people out of the canyon who did not have a receipt for camping.
After that, visitors flocked to the canyon the rest of the weekend, according to Brown.
“I’m sorry we had to clear out the canyon. Tooele does have a population of homeless people that need help, but people were afraid to camp in the canyon,” he said. “Many people thanked us for making the canyon a safe and enjoyable place.”
In the next two weeks, Brown said the pay for camping system in Middle Canyon will be duplicated in Ophir Canyon, with between 12 and 14 campsites.
Under the new camping system, Brown, along with the Tooele County Citizen Patrol and sheriff’s department deputies, patrol the canyon and check for receipts.
People without a valid receipt, or who have camped for more than seven consecutive days, are asked to leave the canyon.
Campsites are available on a first come, first serve basis with no reservations, he said.
Check out time is 10 a.m. and the maximum allowable stay is seven days. Campsite users must have a vehicle and picture identification.
The new fee only applies to camping; there is no charge for sightseeing or other recreational activities in the canyon.
“Cleaning up Middle Canyon will help relieve some of the stress on Settlement Canyon,” Brown said. “Our canyons, especially with the price of gas today, have become a hot spot for recreation for people from Tooele County and from other areas along the Wasatch front.”