About 20 people gathered at Park City High School Tuesday evening for a public forum giving them opportunities to provide comment on proposed federal legislation. The Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Act, or NCRA, would add protections to parts of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and the Monitors area in Summit County.
Community members and members of the Central Wasatch Commission met to discuss the latest draft of legislation drawn up by the commission. Park City Mayor Andy Beerman represents Park City on the commission, he points out one of the areas directly impacted by the legislation is a popular backcountry ski area in Summit County.
"The Monitor Bowls for several decades, Vail currently, but the previous ski resorts have asked to expand there,” Beerman explained. “The Forest Service says, that's not appropriate for expansion. Should there be a different administration at the Forest Service or a change of policy it's only an administrative act to change that, they could open that up for skiing. If this goes through and it’s approved by Congress to reverse that and allow skiing on that area would require an act of Congress, which is much harder to achieve. So, it just protects it from changes in philosophy or policies.”
The Central Wasatch Commission is seeking feedback through September 19th on the latest draft of the legislation. The current draft is a compromise of the several stakeholders in and near Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Officials with the commission report that Solitude, Brighton and Snowbird resorts are all supportive of the current draft legislation while Alta resort is less supportive. Parts of the act includes land exchanges between private and public lands. The proposed act also would add protection to the White Pine Canyon Watershed area and make transportation improvements to the two canyons.
Park City resident Mike Florance was one of about 10 Wasatch Back residents at the meeting. Florance says he often meets up with friends at the Park N Ride lots before heading up Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons for backcountry skiing. He says solving the transportation issue would take improvements to the bus system, and likely charging money for parking at the resorts. Florance also says he is generally in favor of the NCRA.
“I’m in favor of the effort and I think it's really a massive effort of herding cats,” Florance said. “There's a lot of constituencies and I think these guys, they’re on to something. I think you don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I think this is good, it's a compromise. I hope that we don't get lost in the details, and we get something done as opposed to just doing what's been done for last 40 years, which is nothing.”
Florance says that what happens to the Cottonwood Canyons not only effects those who recreate in the canyons but it also has a residual effect on all residents in the Wasatch Back.
“We are all part of a ski economy and a ski ecosystem. If we let the Central Wasatch get ruined it's going to have impacts on us. I mean we're just over the border from it. We want to have a say in what's going on over there. We don't want to just be at the whim of someone throwing a gondola up over here, or building a tunnel, or whatever might come out of a process. So, I think we should be engaged even though maybe there's only that little bit of blue that sticks over into the Monitors.”
Those wanting to learn more about the current draft of the NCRA and or provide comments, can do so here.