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Bureau of Land Management removes long-standing sign from out front of the Bonneville Salt Flats

Published in blog.hemmings.com

The sign in 2006. Photo by the author.

Other than the long dark lines that racers follow on their quests for speed and a few drainage ditches, the Bonneville Salt Flats differs from other federal lands in that it boasts few permanent landmarks. That is, after all, the appeal of the white empty expanse. And for now, Bonneville boasts one fewer landmark after the Bureau of Land Management removed the longstanding sign at the end of the road leading to the flats.

As if one needed further proof of visiting Bonneville or a reminder of the records broken and speeds achieved there, the sign not only served as a caption for thousands of amateur and professional slideshows alike, it also detailed the century-plus history of land-speed racing at the site and gave nod to the speed trials that take place on the salt flats every summer and fall, weather permitting, for those unfamiliar with the sport of land-speed racing. For veterans of the sport, it’s served as a milestone, gathering place, and icon thanks in no small part to its placement at the generally accepted entrance to the flats, where the pavement of Bonneville Speedway Road gives way to the salt.

While the BLM does have a second, less informative sign at the location – mostly used to warn motorists from driving on the salt when it’s flooded – and Goodyear erected a concrete sign at a westbound I-80 rest stop overlooking the flats in 1972, the end-of-the-road sign has served as a de facto welcome center to the flats for years.

But with the graffiti, bullet holes, and annual plastering of stickers on top of the beating the sign takes from the elements, the sign has also seen better days. As Jinx Vesco, manager of Team Vesco, noted in an exchange with the Bureau of Land Management’s West Desert district manager last May, the sign stood in “disgraceful condition,” broken and neglected.

“When the State of Utah managed the flats the signs were magnificent, Utah was proud of this historic place,” she wrote. “Sadly, under the BLM’s stewardship things have gone downhill to an embarrassing degree.”

Earlier this month, the BLM’s Utah division took down the end-of-the-road sign, noting in a Facebook post that it will soon replace the sign with a new one, though it gave no details on a replacement in the post. According to the BLM, the old sign will go to the Southern California Timing Association – which hosts the annual Speedweek at the flats – for placement in its Bonneville Sat Flats museum.

Which museum that is wasn’t exactly clear. Former Wendover, Utah, mayor Mike Crawford had announced a Bonneville Speedway Museum in 2011, but to date it remains unbuilt. Neither Crawford nor representatives from the BLM returned calls for further comment.

An SCTA representative, who said the BLM had plans to scrap the sign before the SCTA stepped in, couldn’t provide any further information on the SCTA’s plans for the sign.

In the meantime, the BLM allowed a group of Bonneville motorcycle racers to install an interim sign – one wrapped with a life-size image of the old sign – in the same place in advance of further racing events at Bonneville this year.

Upcoming events at Bonneville include the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association’s World of Speed, scheduled for September 13-16, and the SCTA’s World Finals, scheduled for October 1-4. For more information about the SCTA, visit SCTA-BNI.org; for more information about the USFRA, visit SaltFlats.com.