Summit County tows eight vehicles in Weber Canyon, stranding residents
Sheriff’s Office says the vehicles blocked the county’s snow plows
January 6, 2017
When Mike MacDonald drove down Weber Canyon Road from his cabin in Alpine Acres on Monday, Jan. 2, he was stunned to find his daughter's vehicle missing.
MacDonald, who has owned his cabin for more than 30 years, said most property owners park at the top of the canyon near Thousand Peaks Ranch because Weber Canyon Road is not maintained in the winter. He said most are forced to access their cabins via snowmobile or snowcat and park in a small parking lot at the base of the road.
"That has been the case for years," MacDonald said. "In the past when we have had snow storms the road crew has come by and they would basically plow the cars in and that was kind of accepted. You dug it out and lived with it, no problem."
But after a significant amount of snow fell over New Year's weekend, the Summit County Sheriff's Office received a report early Monday morning from the county's Public Works Department that nearly 30 cars were parked along the street violating the county ordinance. The report states 11 were impeding snow removal.
Deputies were able to locate the owners of three vehicles, but ended up towing eight, including MacDonald's.
"From a maintenance standpoint, it's not in the middle of Oakley. There is not a lot of traffic going through there. I had three grandkids with me and I was saying, what do you do? Luckily I had my other truck with me," MacDonald said. "Some people did not and were left stranded there with no cell service and small children. There was no one there to tell anyone what happened and you didn't have any idea where your car went."
Parking on county roads is prohibited during the winter between Nov. 15 and April 15. Any person who violates the ordinance is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. According to the ordinance, vehicles or "other obstructions which hamper snow removal operations will be towed or moved at the owner's expense."
Andrew Wright, a lieutenant with the Sheriff's Office, said when dispatch receives a call about on-street parking it is typically from the county's Public Works Department. Wright said a deputy will be sent to the area to try and locate the owners.
"We will even turn to social media to try and locate a number. We do everything that we can before relocating a vehicle," Wright said. "But when they are just coming up for a weekend, it makes it difficult to locate the owners. Unfortunately, in some instances we cannot make contact with the owner and our next course of action is to relocate the vehicle."
Wright said the Sheriff's Office is put in the position of "trying to do what we need to do, but I complete understand it inconveniences the owner."
"I think because of this incident and because it happened over the weekend the Sheriff's Office is taking a close look at the situation to make sure we are not inconveniencing and stranding people in an area where they don't have service," Wright said. "I think an important discussion needs to take place between the county and the residents of those areas because I'm sure Weber Canyon is not the only one."
MacDonald said he had to pay about $400 to retrieve his vehicle, while he heard others had to pay close to $200. He said he was "livid."
"My initial thought was a snow plow driver got pissed and the whole thing spiraled out of control to where the Sheriff's Office gives carte blanch to the tow companies and they can charge whatever they want," MacDonald said. "Where does the county want people to park?
"We pay a large amount of taxes up here and we get zero services, except we get our road graded in the summer a couple times. It's frustrating from the property owners up here. They left people in peril with no concern."
Derrick Radke, the Public Works director, acknowledged there is limited parking for Weber Canyon property owners. However, he said there is no property available to create a new lot. He said the department will begin exploring other alternatives, such as widening the shoulder or creating more signage.
"It was an unfortunate event, but they were parked illegally. There were signs on the road," Radke said. "We are trying to find a solution, though, and I understand that they don't have a place to park. We are looking at and will talk to the Sheriff's department and make sure whatever resolution we come up with is something we can both live with."