Park City’s Rail Trail will see changes under city management
Park City Municipal is preparing to take over managing the state-owned Union Pacific Rail Trail inside city limits.
The Rail Trail is a heavily used three-mile section of the 26-mile historic railroad bed, running from Bonanza Drive to S.R. 248.
Utah State Parks has managed the Rail Trail since the 80s.
But after a master planning process, open houses, public surveys, and consulting input, Park City is entering an interlocal agreement with the state agency to take over management and maintenance of the corridor this fall. The state would still officially own the trail under that agreement.
Park City Trails and Open Space Manager Heinrich Deters said public feedback has shown people feel unsafe with cyclists traveling too fast on the busy pathway, which is 10 feet wide. The answer, he said, is to widen it.
"We're looking at a trail cross-section of 10 feet of pavement which is consistent with what's out there right now, and then adding eight feet of road base to the side of that," Deters said. "So, we're providing some additional width to spread those people out."
Under the new plan, an old wagon trail south of the Rail Trail would become an off-leash dog area, separating pets and the heavy traffic on the path. Deters said they're also recommending trailhead services like restrooms, striping, and wayfinding services for three sections. The plan includes dark sky-compliant lighting for the trailhead areas, too.
"Right there by the White Pine touring area, the Rail Central building, and then one at Prospector Park and then a new one out on Richardson Flat road trail - that would be the only area where we would like to generate new parking for the rail trail," he said. "I know parking is important to the recreational facilities but also a place where we see a lot of the impacts associated with use."
The Rail Trail is an old rail bed and widening it will require an engineering plan.
"There is pretty significant space for a lot of those improvements that we could probably implement right away. But there are areas where, you know, we might not even be able to fit those eight feet in there," Deters said. So, you know what the idea of the master plan is to get a concept that we can try to implement, put it out to engineering construction design, and then come back and look at costs and have Council approve those costs, etc. before making those improvements."
The city hired transportation consultants Fehr and Peers to help compile data and research national path and transportation standards. Consultants alarmed many residents with an initial recommendation to fully pave and widen the Rail Trail, making its footprint wider than some local roads.
"It was 26 feet. I thought it was way too wide," Deters said, "but they provide those [recommendations] based on national standards. We took it to the public and they said that's way too wide. So that is the process and how it works, and I think we're at a really good place right now."
The 1983 National Trails System Act preserves abandoned railroad rights-of-way like the Rail Trail. That means that legally, the Rail Trail could become a road if the state decided to make such a change.
"How likely is that? I can't say, but I think that that is still a chance."
Park City Municipal’s goal is to manage it as a non-motorized transportation and recreation corridor.
The city is still taking comments through engageparkcity.org. Deters said approval of the master plan would go to the city council soon. Once approved, work would begin next spring.