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With Basin Trails Packed and Parking Scarce, Summit County Debates Solutions

Basin Recreation

Keeping the Snyderville Basin trail system from being loved to death is still a challenge as representatives for Basin Recreation gave an update June 2 to the Summit County Council.


At least one county councilor disagrees with Basin Rec about whether permitting will have to be used to limit trail use.


On Wednesday, Basin Rec director Dana Jones told the council the problems didn’t arise overnight and it will take some time to solve them.


To deal with parking congestion around trailheads and to oversee trail behavior, she said the office has hired a full-time enforcement officer and a seasonal patroller to aid its “enforcement as education” approach.


Jones said Basin Rec has held outreach events, run backcountry patrols and enlisted volunteer trail ambassadors.


Ben Castro, Board Chairman for the District, said they did a lot to develop open space and trails.


“We let the genie out of the bottle, and now we’re trying to rein the genie back in,” he said.


Councilor Doug Clyde said they’ve got an extraordinary situation as Basin taxpayers financed a system that’s a lure to some two million people along the Wasatch Front and tourists.


He told KPCW the dilemma evolved over the years when developments were approved after offering trails as benefits.


“It turns out now those local trails are occurring on the end of dead-end streets up long cul-de-sacs and difficult locations, are being accessed in large part by people from Salt Lake,” he said. “And they of course drive up, right, and they don’t have any place to park. And we don’t have the capacity to park them at the trailhead. The trailhead was never designed with the thought of people driving up to that trailhead. It was designed for local use only.”


Dana Jones said it’s been suggested that Basin Rec use permits or hang tags to limit use. But she said she’s reviewed that option with Trails and Open Space Manager Matt Wagoner and they don’t put much faith in it.


“Based on our experience with this, although it would possibly limit the number of people that are parking right at the trailhead, all of those people are now going to move past where you have to have the permit to park,” Jones said. “And they’re going to be parking even further into the neighborhood and causing even more problems if you were to do that. It’s like that little doll you used to have where you squeezed it and its eyes popped out. So when you squeeze them in one place, they are going to pop out in other places. We would prefer to be able to manage their pop-out. And by squeezing them with our trail patrol and our social etiquette and getting less people parking in the neighborhood we want to manage where they’re going to pop out at, and try to work with the Chamber and Mountain Trails Foundation and all of our staff to get them to pop out in more responsible places, places where there’s better parking and better access to the trails.”


She said that limiting use is the last option the county wants to pursue.


During the meeting, councilor Roger Armstrong said that with the growth of trail use, promoting good behavior won’t solve the issues.


“But at the end of the day, you’re going to have shoulder-to-shoulder people being nice to each other on the trails,” he said. “It’s still not going to be a pleasant experience.”


Clyde commended the District for their efforts, but drawing on his experience in recreation areas, he thinks regulation will have to happen.


“It’s not a complicated concept,” he said. “It will be very difficult to enforce. But we are going to have to regulate this just like the Forest Service regulates campgrounds.”

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.
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