CASTLE VALLEY, Utah (ABC4) — The residents of Castle Valley, a small town about 16 miles northeast of Moab in southeastern Utah, are expressing their concerns after a wedding trashed a scenic area largely untouched by humans.

Castle Valley Councilmember Pamela Gibson told ABC4 that a wedding in September turned into a large unpermitted reception that left furniture, garbage bags, broken glass, and leftover food scattered around the base of Castleton Tower.

Gibson said she noticed the aftermath during a morning walk from her house to the base of Castleton Tower and Adobe Mesa. She said on its best days, it’s a beautiful and pristine area, largely untouched by human beings and buildings. When she noticed a tent and a truck at Castleton Tower, her first thought was someone was camping.

“Camping is not permitted, that’s the reason why it was such a shock and it really made me mad to see that,” said Gibson. “You know, that’s not supposed to be there.” As Gibson got closer, what she saw was a moving truck with workers removing furniture.

Gibson said the workers clearing furniture could not tell her who had a permit for the party. They told her they were there to clean up the furniture but someone else would be removing trash. Gibson said she noticed the mess on Sunday morning. It wasn’t until Tuesday that it was completely cleaned up. In the time in between, animals had torn open the garbage bags, spreading litter around the area.

“It was trashed for four days, which is too many because the public couldn’t enjoy that,” said Gibson, who admitted she was pretty upset. “Who wants to look at that stuff?”

The Bureau of Land Management, which has jurisdiction over the land where the event was held, reportedly gave the couple permission to use the land through a Letter of Agreement. Gibson explained that BLM expected the event was going to be a small wedding of about ten people. They weren’t aware the event had become a full-blown reception complete with food and decoration, which would have required a permit.

BLM told ABC4 that a Letter of Agreement does not authorize commercial services as a permit does. There is an expectation that people are honest when making requests that wouldn’t require a permit.

Gibson and the Town of Castle Valley penned a letter to the BLM. The letter asked the BLM to require deposits and to be “extremely clear” with what can and can’t be done during the event. If those rules are violated, the Town of Castle Valley suggests forfeiting the deposit and issuing fees. Ultimately, Gibson said the town feels Castleton Tower isn’t appropriate for a reception.

“We don’t want it to happen again. Not in this place. That one particular place, that’s not a good place to have a reception,” said Gibson. “If someone wants to go have a little wedding – because it’s a beautiful place, I can understand why people want to do it. It’s gorgeous. But that would be something simple where you can come up in your jeep, get out and not leave any marks.”

BLM said the Moab Field Office has issued 48 Letters of Agreement so far in 2023 for weddings.

“This reflects the growing popularity of public lands as a venue for such personal events,” said BLM spokesperson JD Mallory.

Gibson wasn’t sure if there would be any punishment for violating the BLM’s Letter of Agreement and BLM didn’t clarify any potential punishment in their statement. Mallory confirmed the incident is still under investigation and that anyone hosting an event or on any BLM land must adhere to the “Leave No Trace Principles.

Gibson said she doesn’t hold a grudge against either the BLM or the couple that got married.

She said the BLM has to deal with huge amounts of land where so many people travel and enforcement is really difficult to do. She said they have a limited budget and a limited amount of rangers, which is why she wants to get the word out to just not hold a reception on BLM land in the first place.

Meanwhile, she just hopes the couple issues an apology to the BLM and the public, but she doesn’t expect that to happen.

“I know that in this time of intense social media, I assume that the couple is getting trolled a lot and I don’t want them to come across as evil doers. I think they got caught up in the plans and it expanded more than they thought. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt,” said Gibson.

The couple could not be reached for comment.