ST. GEORGE — Anyone planning a camping trip to Kolob Reservoir will now need to book a reservation for a site.
Kolob Reservoir ceased to be a free location for camping this week as an online reservation system adopted by the Washington County Water Conservancy District went into effect.
Additional policy changes have also been adopted in order to combat issues of trash and human waste, overcrowding and frequent trespassing on private property surrounding the whole of the reservoir.
“It’s kind of always been open up there,” Zachary Renstrom, general manager of the county water district, previously told St. George News.
The water district owns property around parts of Kolob Reservoir where people have been allowed to camp for free. That leniency on the part of the water district was taken advantage of by an “astronomical amount” of visitors last summer, Renstrom said.
While a nice, quiet place to go camping in past years, websites such as FreeCampsites.net, which inform the public of free camping spots such as Kolob, blew up visitation at the reservoir, especially over the last year. Basic infrastructure around the reservoir wasn’t built to accommodate so many visitors at one time, and private property owners saw people repeatedly camping on their land under a mistaken belief it was open state or federal land.
Local residents and property owners came together and approached the water district and county for help in curtailing the massive influx of visitors before the upcoming summer brought a new wave.
The people spoke, and the county’s water and public officials listened.
“This isn’t something we initiated,” Washington County Commission Chair Gil Almquist said during a commission meeting Tuesday.
During the meeting, the commissioners voted to adopt, enact and enforce new policies for camping around the reservoir, as well as enter into temporary lease with the water district to manage the campsite offered on their property.
“Kolob Reservoir has basically been overrun,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said. “People need to know they’ll have to make reservations. I think this will make for a better experience for everybody.”
In addition to the new reservation system and accompanying fees, the campsite will also feature additional restroom facilities in the form of a permanent facility currently in the works, as well as additional portal toilets as a part of the county’s management of the site.
Camping conditions remain primitive and lack hookups and drinking water. Campsites are listed as being able to host small tents up to motorhomes.
However, new restrictions regarding camping locations have also been adopted with the promise of increased policing by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in the area. Instead of people camping all around the reservoir and on private property, only 40 official campsites are offered through the reservation system at this time.
Use of boats with two-cycle engines is also now prohibited on water. Only boats with motors of 10 horsepower or less are now allowed on the reservoir.
The reservoir is smaller and really isn’t the place for place for large boats and other motorized watercraft, Deputy Washington County Attorney Victoria Hales said, adding that Kolob is used for drinking water as much as it is recreation. Banning large motors will help avoid potential oil leaks and other contamination issues they can cause, she said.
The length of stays at Kolob has also been reduced to seven days. Previously, people have been known to stay there for months at a time.
“There are limits to how long you can stay up there,” Almquist said. “It’s not an alternative housing project.”
Fire restrictions also remain in effect, which was another concern for local residents and county officials. Campfires are currently prohibited, and sheriff’s deputies will hand out citations without hesitation, Almquist said.
“We have an entire watershed to protect on that mountain,” he said, adding that if the area burned down, it would ruin it and the reservoir for years to come.
The lease between the county and water district is a “temporary fix” to the issue as both parties work toward implementing a more permanent solution, Hales said.
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