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Park City to further evaluate paid parking at Bonanza Flat trailheads

Bonanza Flat in July 2022. Currently, Bonanza Flat still has quite a bit of snow. It’s expected to be ready for hikers in July.
Parker Malatesta
Bonanza Flat in July 2022. Currently, Bonanza Flat still has quite a bit of snow. It’s expected to be ready for hikers in July.

Paid parking or trailhead reservations may be coming to Park City’s Bonanza Flat Conservation Area. The city council wants more time to evaluate options for the 1,500 acres of open space in the heart of the Wasatch.

In the years since Park City purchased the over 1,500 acres that makes up Bonanza Flat with help of local taxpayers, the area has grown in popularity as a summer recreation destination.

To deal with the congestion, the Trails and Open Space department recommended several management strategies to the city council Thursday, including increased shuttle service to Bonanza Flat and potentially adding paid parking kiosks or a reservation system.

Utah Open Lands Director of Conservation Emily Ingram said a paid system could help encourage more sustainable behavior.

“The paid parking system would be either a fee per vehicle or per visitor, and really we’d be aiming to control some of the access issues and discourage certain behaviors,” Ingram said. “So we’re encouraging Transit to Trails. We’re encouraging people to carpool. We’re discouraging people from driving a single-occupancy vehicle up there.” 

Park City started the Transit 2 Trails shuttle service in 2021. There were talks Thursday of increasing the frequency of the free service that takes hikers and mountain bikers from downtown Park City up to Bonanza Flat.

Major trailheads across Big Cottonwood Canyon, which connects directly to Bonanza Flat, will begin charging fees over the next year as part of a new U.S. Forest Service initiative.

Council member Jeremy Rubell said Park City doesn’t want to be in the position of having the only free parking in the area.

“If we know it’s coming and we know we’re going to have to do it and we know we have a problem to address, let’s give direction to start down that path of answering those questions and doing that work,” Rubell said. “We don’t need to necessarily put a kiosk in tomorrow, but let’s start the process with purpose.”

Rubell suggested finalizing a plan by the 2025 trail season. The council agreed that taking time to come up with the best system is worth the wait.

Bonanza Flat user data collected over summer 2023 found that Park City residents made up just 7% of visitors. Salt Lake City locals made up the largest portion at 25%. The data also shows that most visitors stay in Bonanza Flat for less than 45 minutes.

If paid parking does become reality, Rubell expressed support for prioritizing Park City residents because they’re paying for the $25 million bond that helped purchase Bonanza Flat. That could mean waiving parking fees or giving residents priority access to reservations or shuttle seats. Fellow council member Ed Parigian agreed.

“I want to give the locals that are paying for this land the absolute first dibs on everything,” Parigian said. “Free whatever, always the benefit.”

During public comment, Summit County resident Shana Hopperstead asked if the council would think about also giving county residents a discount on any potential future fees.

“It just seems like paid parking is just going to make it more difficult especially for those of us who are now in our retirement years, trying to get out and minimize cost, so it would be appreciated if you would strongly consider that," Hopperstead said.

Currently, Bonanza Flat still has quite a bit of snow. It’s expected to be ready for hikers in July.

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