CEDAR CITY — A new day-use site could be coming to Cedar Canyon, an area known for illegal camping and trash dumping — issues the agency hopes to resolve.

Trash rests on top of a fire ring at the proposed Coal Creek day-use site, Cedar Canyon, Utah, Feb. 5, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

The 55-acre site is approximately 5 miles east of Cedar City on state Route 14. The Bureau of Land Management has proposed building picnic sites, group areas, walking paths, vault toilets, grills, fire rings, pavilions and perimeter fencing, among other amenities, according to a news release issued by the agency. It would be constructed in multiple phases.

The Coal Creek trail would be expanded from the Southwest Wildlife Foundation property, past the day-use site, to Right Hand Canyon, following a public land easement across private land,

In addition to the day-use site, the proposal would institute a 12,600-acre no-camping area on BLM land from Shurtz Canyon Road to 1/2 mile north of Fiddlers Canyon, including the site in Cedar Canyon.

According to the release, the restriction is meant to reduce wildfire risk, prevent illegal dumping near waterways and mitigate impacts caused by human waste. The BLM estimates that over 99% of the restricted area would not be suitable for camping due to issues with inaccessibility caused by slopes with gradients exceeding 5% and the limited number of roads in the area.

This map shows the proposed no-camping area boundary for Iron County, Utah | Image courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, Cedar City News

The restriction would not impact other recreational activities, said Jacqueline Russell, the Cedar City Field Office’s acting field manager.

BLM outdoor recreation planner Mike Innes told Cedar City News the bureau isn’t trying to keep visitors from the area.

“It’s really just the overnight closures,” he said. “We’re having a big issue with trash and human waste in the area. So that’s the big thing we’re trying to get to is helping to mitigate those issues.”

Between January 2019 and December 2023, BLM law enforcement and the Iron County Sheriff’s Office reported taking 95 law enforcement actions within a 6-mile radius comprising the day-use site and SR-14, according to the draft assessment.

These actions include citations for illegal dumping, burning and vagrancy. The agency stated illegal use occurs regularly, requiring multiple cleanup projects throughout the year. The BLM estimates that 15 cubic yards of trash are removed from the area annually.

“Illegal dumping affecting aesthetics, long-term campers and other illegal activities prohibits fair use and access by all members of the public and illicit activities create an unsafe environment for all public land users,” the assessment states.

How would the project impact the area?

A storm rolls over Cedar City, Cedar Canyon, Utah, Feb. 5, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

The BLM is not yet in the design phase, Innes said. They’ve drafted an environmental assessment required by the National Environmental Policy Act Review Process and requested public input regarding the proposed day-use site and camping restrictions.

“Engaging with the public and considering their valuable input is at the heart of our commitment to responsible land management,” Russell said in the release. “We look forward to the public involvement as we evaluate the proposal, striving to strike the right balance between enhancing outdoor opportunities and safeguarding our natural resources.”

The environmental assessment is used to consider the “environmental consequences” of the BLM’s proposal, Russell told Cedar City News in an email.

“The proposal acknowledges potential effects on local wildlife, especially concerning habitat disturbance,” she wrote. “Mitigation measures are planned with sensitivity, aiming to minimize impacts on species by scheduling construction outside of sensitive winter mule deer use and nesting seasons for migratory birds.”

Pine cones cover the ground at the proposed Coal Creek day-use site, Cedar Canyon, Utah, Feb. 5, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Part of the project would involve removing pinyon pine and juniper trees using various methods, including chainsawing and mastication. The resulting woodchips would be used as soil cover and moisture retention, according to the assessment. The BLM would plant native species, such as narrowleaf cottonwood, coyote willow, water birch and thin-leaf alder trees.

“Where possible, native trees that are currently growing on site, such as
cottonwoods and willows would be used in plantings. … These areas would be replanted to a diverse upland and riparian herbaceous species component that would benefit a wide variety of wildlife and make the area more aesthetically pleasing. ” the assessment states.

Additionally, the BLM reports that removing pinyon pine, juniper and tamarisk trees would improve winter range conditions for mule deer, providing “more desirable forage and cover species.” According to the assessment, Cedar Canyon is located on the Parowan Front — a mule deer migration corridor and home to a locally declining population.

A buck walks through a juniper forest in this file photo, Kanarraville, Utah, Nov. 20, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

Russell said the day-use site would be closed from Dec. 1 to April 30 each year to reduce human impacts on wintering deer when “food is scarce and energy conservation is a high priority.

Other impacts include potentially widening SR-14 to construct a turn lane, soil disturbance and increasing sediment deposits into Coal Creek. However, installing a toilet facility could reduce or eliminate the issues with human waste and related risk of water contamination, according to the assessment.

The Peregrine Fund has tracked endangered California condors traveling into the area to forage. However, the BLM reports no known roosting sites or nests, and the area is outside the birds’ designated critical habitat.

How can Southern Utahns submit comments?

“Effective feedback will critically examine the environmental assessment document’s accuracy, methodologies, and suggest practical alternatives or improvements,” Russell wrote. “However, general comments of support or objection for the project will be less helpful to informing the environmental analysis. Thoughtful, specific contributions are pivotal in shaping a proposal that addresses environmental and recreational impacts.”

Trash litters the ground at the proposed Coal Creek day-use site, Cedar Canyon, Utah, Feb. 5, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Southern Utahns can read the draft environmental assessment 0n the BLM’s planning website and comment online at this link.

Alternatively, comments can be mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Attn: Coal Creek Day Use Site EA, 176 E DL Sargent Dr., Cedar City, Utah, 84721.

All comments must be submitted by Feb. 23 and should include the reference, “Coal Creek Day Use Site EA,” according to the news release.

“Before including an address, phone number, email address or other personally identifiable information in any comments, be aware the entire comment — including personal identifying information — may be made publicly available at any time,” the release states.

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