Bear Lake beaches will again be open to more traffic

By Will Glade
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — Once again, Bear Lake is about to see a change in laws managing the beaches around the Utah side of the Lake.

HB140 passed through a seemingly endless fight to make beaches more accessible for the general public, and making it easier for people to camp and launch boats around the lake.

Bear Lake, on the border of Utah and Idaho, is a popular tourist attraction. (Utah State Parks)

Bear Lake, on the border of Utah and Idaho, is a popular tourist attraction. (Utah State Parks)

Rep. R. Curt Webb, R-Logan, the sponsor of the bill, said, “The exposed public lands have had a tradition of public use until HB333 in 2013, those uses were pretty common. HB333 turned those uses on their head, and although those uses are still [evidenced] on the Idaho side, Utah’s traditional uses have been seriously curtailed.”

HB140 once signed into law by the governor, will make travel along the beach legal and allow anyone who wants to get a permit to launch from the shore of Bear Lake. It will also open all beaches to camping unless posted as closed.

The bill did not see much opposition on either the House or Senate floor, but did see a lot of opposition from the public in both committee hearings.

In the Senate Committee hearing, Don Reese, a concerned citizen, said, “I assert that the ideas of parallel driving incorporated in HB140 do not adequately address legitimate concerns of impact to the shore and beach of the lake.”

Along with Reese, many, many others testified during both hearings against opening up the beach for travel in motorized vehicles.

Many of the property owners along the lake fear that this will cause a safety hazard for those who are on the beach and playing in the water. The bill does place a 10 mph speed limit on vehicles traveling along  the beach to try and help with this issue.

Not only will there be a speed limit, but also restricts the reasons one can travel along the lake shore. Only those traveling to and from camp sites, who are launching a boat or another form of watercraft into the lake, and those who are only going to travel 500 yards once by the lake. Any other forms of travel are considered against the law, and would be penalized.

Webb said that HB140 was one of the most debated bills he has ever run during his tenure as a legislator.

“I guess you would have to be at Bear Lake year after year to see what a difference last year made,” said Webb. “My original discussion with the people at sovereign lands was: ‘give us time and we will work this out.’ And they probably could with the pressure we are putting on now, but fifty years from now it won’t be us sitting here. In fifty years from now, will we have crafted something that protects the ability to use the lake in its traditional manner, or will we leave in place a bill that allows them to do again what they did last year?”

This bill will reverse everything that was passed in 2013 and restore it to how it was before HB333 allowing more access to the general public.

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Categories: Utah Legislature, Utah News

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