Utah Honors State's Fallen Peace Officers At OHV Trailhead

April 2013 Powersport News Dave Halsey, NOHVCC contributing writer

"The Fallen Peace Officer Trail is dedicated to the Utah men and women of law enforcement who lost their lives in the line of duty and to those officers seriously wounded, but who survived. In cooperation with the Utah Peace Officers Association, Ride With Respect, and Utah State Parks, this 14 mile trail is dedicated to those who sacrificed while serving and protecting the citizens of Utah. We invite you to ride with respect and honor these officers."


That is the inscription on a plaque honoring fallen peace officers that will be commemorated next month at a ceremony in Utah. But unlike most memorials of this kind, it won't be placed on a pedestal in a city park or state capitol building. It will be set in a boulder the size of a Volkswagen, at the trailhead of an OHV trail named, appropriately, "Fallen Peace Officer Trail."


The 24-by-36-inch plaque was dedicated at a ceremony April 20 at the trailhead, located about 12 miles north of Moab. Organized by the Utah Peace Officers Association (UPOA), it will be part of a day-long event to honor Utah peace officers who have died or been seriously wounded in the line of duty.


The Fallen Peace Officer Trail itself is part of the Sovereign Trail System, developed over the past decade by Ride with Respect, a non-profit organization that maintains trails and educates off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders. 

About a year ago, Clif Koontz, Ride with Respect program director and a NOHVCC State Partner, asked the UPOA for permission to name a 14-mile loop of the Sovereign Trail in honor of Brody Young, a Utah State Parks Ranger. In 2010, while patrolling public lands, Young checked on a man sleeping in a car at another trailhead in the area and was shot nine times. He survived the gun battle, undergoing multiple surgeries and more than a year of physical therapy. Today, Young is back at work for Utah State Parks, still carrying four bullets inside his body. 

Koontz's idea to name the trail after Young sparked something even larger.   

"Ride with Respect approached us about a year ago," said Rick Mayo, president of UPOA and a recently retired Utah State Trooper. "They were interested in making it the Brody Young Trail. Brody, being the humble man that he is, asked for it to be called the Fallen Peace Officer Trail. So we took that name and ran with it. With the backing of the UPOA, we were able to spend the time and money to promote it and get all of the officers and public involved and invited to join us at this event."


Young spoke at the memorial dedication begins at the trailhead, near mile marker 141 on Highway 191. Also in attendance were other Utah peace officers who are survivors of gun battles, representatives of agencies honoring officers who died in the line of duty, and a number of state government officials.


"Over 100 officers in Utah have been killed in the line of duty," said Mayo. "Each year, we'll honor 14 different officers. It's a 14-mile trail and at each mile marker we'll honor and focus on one officer."


The event was also a fundraiser, complete with vendors and prizes, to help with the cost of the memorial, trail maintenance and to provide scholarships to families of fallen officers. "It's called the Brody Young 2010 Scholarship. 2010 is the year that he was shot, and 2010 will be the dollar amount of the scholarship," Mayo said.


Clif Koontz, at Ride with Respect, is pleased with how things turned out. "The intent is to humanize and recognize the sacrifices that have been made by these particular people, and made every day," said Koontz. "A lot of rangers and police officers ride trails on ATVs and motorcycles, so they're expecting a good turnout."


The Fallen Peace Officer Trail offers spectacular views of Arches National Park and the La Sal Mountains. It's open to dirtbikes, ATVs and side-by-sides and is classified as moderately difficult, featuring a variety of rocky washes, rock steps, and sandy areas scattered with juniper trees.


According to the website of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States, on average, every 53 hours.

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