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Tourism Could Save a Uintah Basin Town


According to the Utah Department of Work Force Services, the unemployment rate in Uintah County is at 8.4 percent. That's more than double the state average of 3.5 percent.

But Lesha Coltharp, Uintah County travel and tourism director, said the recent job losses and people moving out of the county, wasn’t as bad as some said.

“We really haven’t lost that many people. There’s still help wanted signs at several businesses around town," Coltharp said. "You know, the unemployment rate is pretty high, but we’re not a ghost town.”

In Uintah County, there’s the Dinosaur National Monument, the Green River and three state parks. Coltharp says the county gets close to a million visitors each year but needs to continuously use tourism to keep life and money in the area.

“You know, we know that tourism will never replace oil and gas, but it’s a great place to recreate and so we’re trying to bring some of these ideas and put them out so they know, hey, Vernal—lots of fun ATV rides, lots of fun. Extra things besides just the dinosaurs and besides just oil and gas," Coltharp said.

This week in Vernal, Uintah County and the Utah State Parks are putting on an “Outlaw ATV Jamboree” to entice people to visit the town.  

“We’re definitely not where we used to be, but we’re trying to take steps to improve," Coltharp said.

Coltharp said events like the Jamboree are an attempt to diversify the economy so when the oil and gas does go down, people don’t feel the crunch quite so bad.