Independence Day celebrations across Box Elder County have been altered or canceled outright this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some local communities are still going forward with fireworks displays and other events as they try to keep Fourth of July traditions intact in the new era of social distancing.
Large, stadium-style shows in Utah’s bigger cities are off the table, and many small cities and towns are foregoing their usual community fireworks as well – but not all.
Corinne will put on a fireworks show beginning at dusk on Friday, July 3. People are invited to congregate in the city park, but are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing.
Brigham City has canceled most of its traditional holiday activities this weekend, but is still planning a fireworks show on Saturday at Rees Pioneer Park.
Tremonton reserves its community fireworks display for the annual City Days celebration. While City Days has been scaled back considerably, the fireworks will proceed on Saturday, July 25.
Garland will have a fireworks show on Saturday, July 11 as part of a smaller Wheat & Beet Days celebration.
In most communities, fireworks will be limited to whatever individuals do at home. In addition to a talent show, highway cruise and other events, Perry is encouraging residents to “light up the night” with their own fireworks to see “which neighborhood or house can put on the best show.”
For those planning to light their own fireworks at home, communities including Brigham City and Perry have implemented restrictions in certain parts of their respective cities.
In the northern part of the county, cities are largely going along with the standard Utah regulations, choosing not to implement their own restrictions. State law allows residents to light fireworks in non-restricted areas from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 2-5 for Independence Day and July 22-25 for Pioneer Day, with lighting allowed until midnight on July 4 and 24.
Sales were slow last Friday afternoon at a fireworks stand in downtown Tremonton, but an employee there who declined to provide a name said she expected things to pick up this week as the holiday draws nearer.
Box Elder County Fire Marshal Corey Barton said there are no additional restrictions in place in unincorporated areas of the county for the Fourth of July weekend. He said recent rains have helped keep the fire danger relatively low for early July, but caution is still in order as hazardous fire conditions set in for the summer.
“We just ask that people are extremely careful as they do their own fireworks,” Barton said. “We’re good for now, but we’re heading into the dry season.”
Illegal use of fireworks is being blamed for a fire that broke out last weekend in Utah County and consumed nearly 500 acres, forcing evacuations and highlighting the potential danger of using fireworks outside of the allowed dates and places. The state Fire Marshal’s office encourages people to practice what it calls the “Four BEs”: Be prepared, be responsible, be safe and be aware.
In 2011, the Utah Legislature made certain types of fireworks illegal. These include firecrackers, cannon crackers, ground salutes, M-80s and all “M” class fireworks, cherry bombs, or other similar explosives.
Prohibited fireworks also include skyrockets, missile-type rocket, single-shot or reloadable aerial shells or mortars, or a cake containing more than 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition. Packaging should indicate how many grams an aerial firework contains.
Bottle rockets, Roman candles, or rockets mounted on wires or sticks are also against state law.
Fireworks are never allowed on federal lands including Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service lands. Utah State Parks are also off-limits to firework use.
As for general fire restrictions, Barton said Box Elder County will follow the lead of state and federal agencies, which he expects will issue restrictions shortly after the holiday weekend. Those will likely include a ban on campfires other than in designated areas, among other prohibitions meant to lessen the likelihood of costly and dangerous wildfires.
“We’re watching it very closely,” Barton said. “We’ll join with the state and BLM when they do theirs.”
For a list of fireworks restrictions statewide, visit https://firemarshal.utah.gov/department-services/fireworks-restricted-areas/
For the better part of two decades, those involved with the Bookmobile in Box Elder County have been looking for a building for the program to call its own.
Proponents are now saying they have found the ideal location for a building to house the program’s large collection of books and other media, along with its vehicles. With funding already approved to build such a facility, they are urging county leaders to move forward with the project.
County librarian and longtime Bookmobile driver Brad Rhodes, along with members of the county library board, visited a recent county commission meeting to make a pitch for a new building on Country Club Road, near Skyway Golf Course. Rhodes called it “the best location possible.”
Rhodes said several locations have been considered from Willard to the county fairgrounds in Tremonton, and the Country Club Road site makes the most sense for a number of reasons.
“It’s one mile from the freeway exit, with dedicated turn lanes east and westbound,” he said. “It has power, water and sewer already in place. It’s nicely central to the county, and the county owns the property.”
Rhodes started driving the Bookmobile in the summer of 2000, bringing books and other learning materials to rural areas in Box Elder County and parts of southern Idaho. He said the program has long been in need of a building “that gives us sufficient room for our current collection, and even allows that collection to grow.”
There’s also a need for a safe place to store the vehicles that will keep them protected from “thieves, vandals and weather, especially water and frost damage.
“We’ve had windows broken out, fuel siphoned off, batteries stolen, fender benders with garbage trucks and teachers’ cars, and seemingly never-ending water leaks over the years,” he said. “We need a building that doesn’t endanger elementary students with Bookmobiles pulling in and out of the parking lot used by these children going in and out of the (school) building, and parents dropping off and picking up kids.”
County commissioners approved up to $1 million in this year’s budget for construction of a Bookmobile facility. The program has been housed in a building shared with the Willard police and fire departments, but space there has become increasingly tight due to growth.
Officials had approved a site for the new building near the events center building at the fairgrounds, but plans for that site fell through after drainage issues were discovered. County Building Official Codey Illum said the new site would also need improved storm drainage, but it would likely be easier to resolve the issue at the new location.
Stan Summers, who oversees the library board in his role as a county commissioner, said the COVID-19 situation has delayed resolution of the drainage issues in the area, but with the Bookmobile program being squeezed out of its Willard location, it’s time to move forward with a plan.
“I’ve been inundated with phone calls, text messages and private messages from constituents that have just sent their support in for this, how much it means to their kids and families,” Summers said.
Rhodes said the Bookmobile, which operates under the county separate from the school district, has worked within or below its budget for years now in the hope that the savings could be used for a new building.
“For 20 years, we’ve had an incentive to not spend our entire budget with the hope that one day we’ll be able to build this facility,” he said. “That day is now.”
Some have questioned the need for a new building in a time when Bookmobile use has been declining. Rhodes said the inability to park in front of elementary schools has hurt use and circulation, but said the service has actually been growing since 2016 despite declining storage space and no increase in its annual budget, with much of the growth coming from more development in unincorporated parts of the county that don’t have easy access to a library.
“We’ve almost had to reinvent ourselves in our communities,” he said. “The demand is out there.”
Commissioner Jeff Scott said he supports the new building and location, as long as the drainage issues are resolved first.
“We’ve found a home, it sounds like. My only concern at this point is the storm drain,” Scott said. “We’ve tried to find something that worked. Now there’s enough money, and it needs to get done.”
A freeway reconstruction project that has begun on Interstate 84 between Tremonton and Howell will restrict traffic through the area until sometime in November.
The Utah Department of Transportation last week started on an $8 million project to improve safety and extend the life of the freeway by removing and replacing old and damaged concrete panels, updating road signage and installing crash barriers along an approximately 15-mile stretch.
While the work is going on, traffic on I-84 will be restricted to one lane in each direction. Crews will work in 5-mile segments, actively working between 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays. The regular speed limit will be reduced from 80 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour, and wide loads will be restricted to 12 feet or less. All on- and off-ramps are scheduled to remain open throughout the project, which has a tentative completion date of late November.
As a major artery in and out of Utah, the stretch of freeway sees a lot of commercial traffic. UDOT traffic count statistics show that as many as 20,000 freight trucks utilize the county’s three major highways every day, in addition to as many as 70,000 passenger vehicles.
UDOT has several other projects coming up in Box Elder County. State Route 102, also known as Main Street in Tremonton, is currently under study for improvements including bicycle lanes, expanded on-street parking, improved crosswalks and other features to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly.
Another project would add climbing lanes for slow-moving freight trucks along uphill stretches of I-84, and a project to improve the road surface from Snowville to the Idaho border is also in the works.
UDOT is also planning an overhaul to the I-15 interchange at State Route 13 in Corinne that will widen the interchange and extend the southbound on-ramp to accommodate increased traffic.
Due to print deadlines, results from the June 30 primary election in Box Elder County were not available as of press time. Please visit www.tremontonleader.com for updated results from races for local, state and federal offices.