One of the most iconic stretches of river in
Utah runs from the Heber Valley through Provo
Canyon to the shores of Utah Lake. Winding
through some of the most delicate ecosystems
this pristine river is enjoyed by several hundred
thousand recreationalist a year. From bikers,
hikers and families the parks and paths of Provo
canyon are a place we all love.
What many may not realize is what is just off
the beaten path.
In recent years a growing number of squatter
or homeless camps have been showing up in
the trees and brush along the river. To gain a
better understanding of what’s happening in
the canyon I spent several hours with the Utah
County Sheriff’s Office viewing these camps,
their effect, and talking with the people who call
A few things I learned.
1-There is a significant public health risk from
mounds of human feces, used needles, condoms
and other bio-hazards. All within a short distance
from the water we drink and the parks we play in.
2-There are probably close to 80-100
abandoned camps within a mile radius of the
two major parks at the mouth of the canyon.
These camps are full of bike parts, wallets, cell
phones, clothing, shoes and a host of other items
most likely stolen.
3-Many of the camps and one cave are full
of pornography, drug paraphernalia and other
evidence to suggest extensive prostitution and
4-There are variety of people living in the
camps, some want to, some have to and some
are looking for what is offered there.
So now what?
I personally believe this is a complex problem,
with no quick one size fits all fix. It’s getting
worse, especially since Operation Rio Grande
displaced a lot of the criminal element. We
need to find some solutions to protect public
health and safety.
One potential is making sure during the
summer seasons when the problem is worse we
can increase the presence of the Sheriff’s Office
along the trails. This can be accomplished by
increasing the number of motorcycle officers.
They can ride their bikes down the trail and do
better at community policing to discourage the
Additionally, we are looking at a way to
limit the number of days a camp can be
present in one area. This ordinance change
was presented during a work session to the
commission and would serve as a tool to help
the officers. While it still needs some tweaking
I believe it could be another way to help law
enforcement eliminate the criminal element
and the pollution of the water.
The final ordinances and police efforts must
be coordinated and used by the entire county
to ensure we do not just move the problem to
I feel these are starting points to pursue and as
always would love your feedback and suggestions.
Attached are some pictures that were taken while
touring these camps in the canyon.
Commissioner Nathan Ivie
Challenges Faced in
Utah County Canyons