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Wildlife Group Welcomes Speed Limit On 224, Considers More

UDOT recently decided to reduce the speed limit along a stretch of Highway 224.    And members of the group Save People Save Wildlife say that’s good news for the safety of both motorists and wildlife crossingthe highway.

But they want to see additional measures taken for wildlife mitigation.

UDOT recently announced they were reducing the speed  from 55 MPH to 45, on a two-mile stretch of 224, including the entryway by the McPolin Farm into Park City.

Figures show that there have been 100 vehicle-wildlife collisions in that area in the last ten years—70 of those in the past five years.  

Lorelai Coombs and Erin Ferguson from Save People Save Wildlife said that since 1980, the population in the Park City area has increased over 200 percent, but there’s been no provision for wildlife mitigation on a highway that the state now sees as a priority.

Ferguson said the lower speed limit is a good start.       

“The wildlife still have to cross with traffic.  So I think slowing people down, making them take a moment to look around, pay attention, enjoy the scenery—I mean, it’s a beautiful corridor.  And then if we can get, continue with the community support to get wildlife mitigation implemented sooner rather than later, that reduced speed limit along with wildlife mitigation implementation will just complete the package.”

They added that while locals know  to watch out for wildlife, tourists visiting Park City are not as aware.

We asked if the underpass near McPolin Farm can be used as an animal crossing.    Ferguson said that would work for some animals, but not others.      

“There’s a predominant elk herd there—probably a 100 head of elk that cross back and forth on a daily basis there.   They’re very very hesitant to use an underpass.  They’re very scared.   They’re a very nervous species.   So y’know deer they have little to no discretion.  They’ll go over, under through.   But the elk are very hesitant to do that.  They’re more inclined to use an overpass.   So that’s what Save People Save Wildlife is leaning towards promoting as an option for them to cross safely.”

They hope  the state would consider a 224 overpass that would not only be safe but attractive.      

“We want to do a more aesthetically-pleasing one, such as the ones along the Trans-Canyon Highway, like in Banff National Park in Canada, where there’s rock work, landscaping—a really nice gateway to Park City.”

They said  the surveillance footage of the I-80 overpass at Summit Park has already shown that it’s a success.    Ferguson talked about the animals that have shown up on camera,      

“All kinds of species—marmots, raccoons, coyotes, bears, cougars, deer, elk.   Y’know, they were, thought, “Y’know, it’s gonna take a couple of years for the wildlife to realize that the bridge is actually there and a means to cross back and forth.   Within a few weeks, they were using it.  So, it’s very exciting.”

Erin Ferguson and Lorelai Coombs from Save People Save Wildlife who added that this Monday, October 28th, work is starting to continue wildlife fencing along Interstate 80—this portion running from Kimball Junction to the Jeremy Ranch Interchange.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.