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The longtime issue of longboarders in Provo Canyon is yet again rolling through the minds of Utah County commissioners, who are also thinking about putting the brakes on bicycles.
The problem is the speed of longboarders and bicyclists who ride through the Nunn's Park section of Provo River Parkway. Riders routinely coast down a small hill, exceeding the posted 15-mph speed limit, and have caused a number of close calls and minor accidents involving pedestrians at the overnight campground, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office.
The county has examined the issue several times since 2007, when boarders were briefly banned from the trail.
"There's always concern," said Utah County Commission Chairman Larry Ellertson, "that people are coming down through there faster than they should be."
Commissioners most recently discussed trail safety at their May 22 meeting in Provo. The main option they considered was turning the campground area into a walking-only zone, similar to a 50-yard section of the trail below nearby Bridal Veil Falls where bicyclists and longboarders must dismount and walk before resuming down the path.
Longboarder Madelynn Davis, a recent graduate of Utah Valley University, was on the trail Wednesday with friends. She said they honor the walk-only rule at the falls, and observing a similar rule at the campground would not be "a big deal," adding that a walk-only zone would be the most effective option for Nunn's Park.
"If I were to pick an option, that would probably be it, because I wouldn't want to not ever ride my board down this canyon ever again," she said.
The commission and the Sheriff's Office would prefer that riders self-regulate rather than be subjected to a foot-traffic-only rule, or even an outright ban.
"I hope they don't ban longboards," said Sheriff's Sgt. Wayne Keith, who heads the team that covers remote county areas. "I hope the public gets the message that's it's a multi-use area."
To that end, the sheriff's primary tack has been to educate. After receiving complaints, the department bumped up patrols in the area, put up printed signs and a trailer that flashes riders' speeds, talked to trail users and cited some. And while most people are aware of the rules, said Under Sheriff Mike Forshee, it's a minority who flout them. He and Keith agree that longboarders are a bigger part of the problem.
In 2007, Forshee said, the Sheriff's Office worked with board and skate shops to educate riders. In addition, one group of longboarders came forward to encourage others to be responsible on the trail. The efforts paid off as complaints stopped for a while. But the issue has resurfaced from time to time.
On the trail Wednesday at Bridal Veil Falls, just east of Nunn's Park, Provo bicyclist Richard Nelson said he uses the trail six days a week, alternating between jogging and biking. He avoids the park "because it's a problem area," and prefers to ride on the road above. He said a walk-only zone at the campground is a good idea. And while he has seen more longboarders this year than ever, he believes all types of trail users are oblivious to the rules. He would like to see more markings on the trail so people know which lanes they're supposed to use, and more signs in accident-prone areas.
Another bicyclist, Liz Lewis of Orem, said she hasn't seen anything unsafe in the campground and isn't sure a walk-only zone would be effective, because many people don't fully observe the rule at Bridal Veil Falls, even though that area is more congested than the campground. Nevertheless, she said she would abide by a walk-only rule.
The commission will continue to explore other options, and while it has not scheduled a public hearing, its members welcome public comment.