Community Input an Essential Part of Tuesday’s Virtual Trail Access Meeting
Summit County officials hosted a webinar on Tuesday evening to discuss the future of trail access in the Snyderville Basin. Access to Summit County’s extensive trail system has been a touchy subject for many locals with increased use causing congestion and other issues on the trails.
The virtual meeting lasted two hours and was open to the public with nearly 80 members of the community joining the Zoom call. All major stakeholders were present with members of the County Council, Basin Recreation, Sheriff’s office, Mountain Trails Foundation, Park City, and animal control all in attendance.
Officials said the explosion in popularity of trails in and around Park City in recent years has caused a number of problems for residents like crowded trailheads, users not following rules for dogs on the trail, trespassing, and increased noise and parking problems in residential areas.
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson characterized many of the recent complaints from residents living near the trail system as “increasingly frantic.” She said public input is essential if a remedy to these problems is to be found.
“We’re asking for the public’s input," she said. "What is going to work? What is going to be an effective solution? Because it’s going to have to be a package of solutions.”
With roughly 170 miles of multi-use trails, the system in the Snyderville Basin is one of the most extensive in the country and has been gradually expanded and integrated into local neighborhoods through a series of bond measures that started in the mid-90s, with the most recent in 2014.
Many of the trails are on public land, but much of the system does wind through private property with access granted through easements with the affected property owners.
Officials ran through several possible solutions to the current problems like transit shuttles, paid parking at trailheads, limiting certain trails to only one user type -- like hikers or bikers -- directional use trails, and trail ambassadors to help with trail education and outreach in the community.
Matt Wagoner is the Trails and Open Space Manager for Basin Recreation and said that a combination of these potential fixes are likely the best path forward.
“The point is that none of them alone is really a silver bullet," he explained. "The idea is that we might implement a handful of these solutions and collectively see some results from their implementation. It’s a selection of things that are kind of implementable in a shorter term.”
Wagoner added that utilizing technology like cameras to help trail users and officials determine the most-heavily trafficked trails and times of day are also an option.
The last hour-and-a-half of the meeting was dedicated to public comment. Many questions centered around vehicle traffic and the implementation of a paid parking program at trailheads. Commenters were worried over whether locals would be subject to the same fees as out of town visitors and if paid parking at trailheads would force more parking into residential areas.
Community member Kathy Mears was part of the two most recent bond processes and said that locals who are already paying for trail upkeep through their taxes should not have to pay any extra fees to utilize their local trails.
“I served on BOSAC for five years and I was on committees the last two open space bonds to help get those passed," she added. "I realize there are solutions that have to come but I feel, as a resident, who is paying for those bonds still in my taxes, it would be offensive to me if you asked me to pay for parking at the trailheads that I’m already paying for.”
Basin Recreation District Director Brian Hanton said that a paid parking program is not at the top of their list of solutions right now but understood that it would create unique challenges that would have to be addressed.
“From a Basin Rec standpoint, we recognize that there would be some challenges if we did have paid parking in areas," he said. "This is a solution that would be kind of more down the road. If we can’t implement some of the other things first, then this would be something that we could look to implement. We think there are other options that we could try first before taking that step to paid parking but we’re obviously continuing to look at everything that we can.”
Summit County Council hopes to revisit trail access issues in July.