Little Sahara Closed During Area’s Biggest Weekend
NEPHI, Utah – Easter weekend is when you would normally hear hundreds of offroad vehicles zooming up and over the sand dunes at Little Sahara Recreational Area.
Instead, the loudest sound Friday afternoon was birds chirping at each other.
They’re probably asking each other and wondering where everyone is because the entire area was empty and quiet.
“Easter weekend at Little Sahara usually brings 20,000 to 30,000 of the recreating public out to that area,” said Mike Gates, field manager at the Bureau of Land Management’s Fillmore Office, which oversees Little Sahara.
Due to coronavirus concerns and people gathering in large groups, Little Sahara was closed.
Signs leading to Little Sahara warned people of the closure and Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officers were stationed at the closed signs leading to the sand dunes.
Any visitors at the entrance were turned away.
“It was a decision to close the recreation area that we didn’t take lightly,” said Gates. “We want the public to follow Governor Herbert’s ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’ directive.”
Many people were still taking their RVs, 4-wheelers and side-by-sides into the West Desert past Little Sahara.
Juab County Sheriff Doug Anderson said his deputies will patrol the area to make sure everyone was staying safe but won’t interfere with people trying to camp this weekend.
“We have about 50% less of our team out there this weekend than what we would normally have on Easter weekend,” Anderson said. “We’re asking people to stay in their home county but they’re coming anyway. So we have positioned our deputies in the area to help if someone gets hurt and needs assistance.”
Even still, the crowds were noticeably smaller this year.
Many people seemed to be staying away because of the closure.
While that may be good to keep coronavirus from spreading, having Little Sahara closed was hurting small businesses in the area.
“It hurts because Easter is a huge weekend for us,” said Krystal Gout.
Gout and her husband Brandon run B’s Hangout in Eureka, Utah.
Normally, much of the traffic going to Little Sahara passes through the small town and hundreds, if not thousands, of extra people stop at their restaurant to eat.
“We would be pretty slammed,” Gout said with a laugh.
However, with Little Sahara closed this year, that meant fewer people.
For this mom-and-pop restaurant, that also meant a lot less money.
“We need the tourism,” said Gout. “The small towns just rely on it.”
For now, B’s Hangout was staying open, but only Friday through Sunday.
There was not enough business to keep it open during the rest of the week like they usually are.
Without the normal Easter crowds, though, that’s putting them behind even further to the point where they’re not sure how much longer they can stay open at all.
“Not very long,” said Gout. “But we did have an emergency fund. That helps. But it can only last so long.”
Even though the quiet is peaceful here, it’s also unsettling.
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