Fremont Island, the Great Salt Lake’s third largest and only privately owned island, has been acquired by an investor group headed by diesel truck entrepreneur David “Heavy D” Sparks.
Famous as the star of the Discovery Channel program “Diesel Brothers,” Sparks and his partners are seeking an easement across 6 miles of state-owned lakebed to access their new property, according to the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
The sale of the 3,000-acre island, recorded Feb. 8 by Weber County, has many conservationists on edge, fearful that the new owners could use the property as an isolated venue for off-roading in overpowered rigs driven across Ogden Bay.
But the “Diesel Brothers” show is not involved with the island, and Sparks’ partners have yet to decide what to do with the land, according to Cole Cannon, a Salt Lake City lawyer representing the partnership buying the island, G&G Island LLC.
“The owners have applied for an access permit for exploratory purposes to determine some responsible, eco-friendly, low-impact uses of the island that will allow Utahns and tourists alike to travel back in time for light recreating and possible lodging,” Cannon said.
A sales price was not available, but Weber County assesses the property at nearly $900,000.
Sparks and his bearded, backward-hat-wearing co-stars operate Diesel Power Gear in Woods Cross, where they build customized high-octane diesel trucks and sell engine parts and accessories, along with gear and apparel associated with motorized lifestyles. They have drawn criticism and a federal lawsuit for allegedly equipping customers’ trucks with devices designed to defeat engines’ emission-control systems.
Despite Sparks’ public image, Cannon said his client is environmentally conscious and recognizes the sensitivity of the land his group now owns.
Conservationists have long hoped the state would buy the island just 6 miles north of Antelope Island. It has been in private hands for decades and operated unprofitably as a livestock range.
The previous owner took its lessee to court to recover unpaid grazing fees, and the state Division of Wildlife Resources deployed hunters in helicopters to eradicate its feral pigs, which were escaping the island. A plan to use it as a refuge for wild horses never got off the ground.
“Poor Fremont Island,” said Lynn de Freitas of Friends of Great Salt Lake. “It’s just this lost cause, and it shouldn’t be that way.
“Driving on the lakebed is not consistent with [the Great Salt Lake comprehensive] management plan,” she added. “It’s antithetical to how we should be thinking about the exposed lakebed.”
Wheeled vehicles can leave tire ruts in the lakebed. Damage from unauthorized driving can be seen in nearby Farmington Bay at low water.
As owners of a private inholding surrounded by state land, G&G Island is entitled to limited access across the lake or its dry lakebed. Through its previous ownership, the property already holds access easements to support the old livestock operations there.
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands will determine what constitutes reasonable access for the new owners, and the agency is now waiting for a detailed proposal.
“We have to make all our decisions based on the public trust,” said agency spokesman Jason Curry. “Public safety is a huge one. We don’t want anyone driving on the lakebed if there is water and sinkholes.”
At low water, the 6-mile-long island can be reached by vehicle from the western end of the causeway connecting Antelope Island State Park and Syracuse.
G&G Island incorporated only a week before the Feb. 8 sale, with real estate developer Colby Bond listed as the registered agent.
The day before the incorporation, the Utah attorney general’s office filed felony communications fraud charges against Bond in connection with his handling of a Herriman land transaction.
He allegedly forged a signature on a warranty deed that gave the false impression he was the sole owner of two parcels he was developing and then borrowed $1.4 million against a parcel that actually belonged to his business partners, according to documents filed in 3rd District Court. Bond has pleaded not guilty.
That case has nothing to do with Fremont Island or G&G, and Bond is not an owner of the new firm, according to Cannon.