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Speed Freaks! Bonneville Needs Your Help!

 
The Bonneville Salt Flats needs your help. It’s association with land speed record attempts may soon come to a close. 
By Mike Aguilar
 
The name Bonneville brings images of speed to the minds of most gearheads. Running high speed passes. Land speed records. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that Bonneville’s motorsports history dates back to just after the beginning of the 20th century when then-Mayor of Salt Lake City, Ab Jenkins rode his motorized bicycle across the Salt Flats in 1910. Four years later Teddy Tetzlaff set the first unofficial land speed record there. However, if nothing is done to protect and restore the Flats, Bonneville’s association with high-speed motorized vehicles may crash to an end.
 
The Motorsports History of the Bonneville Salt Flats
 
Even most people that make regular pilgrimages to the Mecca of high speed aren’t aware that the Bonneville Salt Flats is not local or state property; it’s federal property, and as such is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. This is because it isn’t a state or federal body that administers the land speed record trials- it’s the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association (USFRA). The state of Utah is making the claim that the BLM is abrogating their duty to properly care for the speedway there and this is causing the racing surface to become unsafe for land speed record trials. 
 
Powered vehicle land speed record attempts may soon be a thing of the past at Bonneville.
 
Racers at Bonneville have been noticing a deterioration of the racing surface since the ‘60s. Instead of addressing these concerns, the BLM issued leases to more than 14 miles of the area for mining operations. In the early ‘70s, many concerned racers again took their concerns to the BLM and the BLM promised that if more land speed record use of the land could be shown, they’d take steps to remediate and improve the surface. That increased use has been shown, but the BLM has continued to fall flat in regards to their promises. 
 
Because of the history of the Flats, the BLM added the Bonneville Salt Flats to the National Registry of Historic Places, administered by the Park Service. Soon after this, the USFRA was formed to further increase the use of the area to satisfy the demands of the BLM. Then, in 1975, the BLM designated the Bonneville Salt Flats area as an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Special Recreation Management Area, conceding that the Flats were in trouble. Still, they sat on their hands. 
 
This fairly recent picture shows the deterioration of the racing surface. It should be a uniform white color.
 
The NHRA’s founder, Wally Parks, teamed up with the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (SEMA) to get someone to do something. Their efforts caused one of the mining companies to begin to spread mined salt on the Flats. 2001 saw a group of organizations and companies, one of which was the owner of the mine, Reilly Industries, begin serious efforts at remediation of an 11-mile course using machines that were specially designed for this purpose. 
 
Utah House Concurrent Resolution 8 Requests BLM Assistance
 
Although state and local authorities can invest and make upgrades and improvements to the speedway area, it is actually the responsibility of the BLM to perform these duties. Utah’s House is currently considering a bill – House Concurrent Resolution 8 - that would call upon the state’s members of Congress to insist that the BLM carry out their responsibilities and honor their promises and return the racing surface to one that is safe. 
 
Early remediation efforts were less than a temporary bandage over the problem. One of these the BLM’s five year “Salt Return Project” was meant to return two inches of salt to the racing surface. However, all it did was slow the depletion of the salt surface. Two years ago, racers began to raise the alarm that the salt was completely gone in some areas, the racing surface was too wet to use, and the remaining surface was no longer suitable for racing. 
 
If nothing is done soon, sights like this will be a thing of the past on the Flats. 
 
Utah’s HCR 8 calls upon the BLM and all concerned parties – including the mine’s current owner Potash, Wendover, LLC, to undertake serious remediation efforts to return the Bonneville Salt Flats to its previous glory. IF passed, these entities will be called upon to do what is needed to return the racing surface to a safe condition for use as a land speed record track. 
 
Utah HCR 8 is scheduled to hit the House floor, Friday, Feb. 19th. Those wishing to show their support for its passage are urged to contact their House representative.