Rumors were flying after a post on Facebook claimed several local canyons will be closed after Labor Day.
But according to Jennefer Parker of the Logan Ranger District, the post’s claims are a case of “someone taking a small grain of truth and running with it.”
The post, which garnered more than a hundred comments in less than five hours on Sunday, cited increasing amounts of human and pet waste, garbage and needles from drug use as the cause for closures.
Melissa Hooten, who authored the post, was camping at Leatham Hollow in Blacksmith Fork Canyon. She said while there is always trash up the canyon, this trip was the worst she’d seen.
Toilet paper, broken glass, beer bottles, cigarettes, spent ammunition and other trash littered the area, along with dog waste scattered throughout the site.
“Our dog even brought a used tampon over from the bushes just next to us,” Hooten said.
So when a forest ranger came to the campsite on Thursday to inform them of fire restrictions in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest starting Friday at 12 a.m., she shared her concerns and asked about the large boulders — “which looked like what you would use to close off an area” — delivered to the mouth of Left Hand Fork by a semi that morning.
Hooten said she was then told Left Hand Fork, Providence and Green Canyon would be closed after Labor Day “due to people dumping garbage, leaving human and pet waste all over, leaving ammunition and drug needles in fire pits, an increase in drug use in the areas, and homeless camps and the waste created around them.”
“We were even advised not to play in the river because of potential E-coli concerns due to human and pet waste being dumped too close to the river,” Hooten shared.
In response, Parker said “waste is always a concern,” especially near waterways, but there are no plans to close down entire canyons next month — rather several campsites within Left Hand Fork.
“We’d established some boundaries for some of the campsites (in Left Hand), and that’s fallen apart in the last few years,” she said. “The closures are for delineating the campgrounds.”
Only a few commented their disbelief in the closures, and one Facebook user said it was highly unlikely the Forest Service would close canyons before the end of hunting season.
“Some people make up false information and then everyone believes it,” Joe Eliason said. “If it was true it would be on the news to let everyone know to clean up the waste and garbage, etc., that you bring in.”
However, most of the commenters concurred the level of trash and waste up the canyons has been growing exponentially over the years and especially during the high-use of the past several months.
Parker previously had told The Herald Journal the Forest Service is not “a waste disposal service.”
“The issue that we’re having is in our undeveloped campsites, where people are just camping along our road, then they’re responsible for removing their garbage,” she said. “We do a lot of it, but the problem is that takes our people — who are spending all their time picking up garbage and not doing campground maintenance, restroom cleaning, you know — from doing all the other things that they need to be doing.”
While Parker dismissed the idea of full canyon closures, the idea spread like wildfire with multiple people sharing the post.
Several others also commented they’d heard the same information as Hooten.
One commenter said the Facebook claim was “mostly true” and told The Herald Journal the ranger they’d spoken to made no mention of waste, drug paraphernalia or the other canyons closing — just changes to several campsites, as Parker said.
Parker questioned whether those who claimed to have been told the same information as Hooten had actually been talking to a forest ranger, but Hooten said “he was in uniform, and driving the Ranger truck.”
“...regardless, the problems that they are having are still real and need to be addressed,” Hooten said, “one way or another.”
Organizing cleanups is not a service typically performed by the Forest Service, and locals have tried to step up to fill the need.
As a result of the post, several people volunteered to organize cleaning days, starting with the problem areas — with some who said they already do, such as bringing garbage bags on hikes and other excursions to clean the mess others have left behind.
Some wondered if it was merely due to population growth while others speculated the rising problems were due to non-locals using the canyons to escape the cities they live in.
Others blamed the local homeless population — which Parker previously said has “been on a steady increase in the last five years,” though no point-in-time counts have been done recently to determine whether this problem is higher due to COVID-19 than in previous years.
More information on the Left Hand Fork closures and other canyon maintenance in the area will be available by Thursday.