The Summit County Council Wednesday talked about how to deal with Snyderville Basin trailheads that are congested with parked vehicles impacting their surrounding neighborhoods—and in at least one case, creating a fire safety hazard.
The council looked at Rob’s Trail, an especially popular trailhead in the Sun Peak neighborhood, with the intent of developing a template for dealing with other trailheads in the area. County officials are considering a parking enforcement regimen to start dealing with the area in the short-term.
Representing the Snyderville Recreation District, staffers Matt Wagoner, Ben Castro and Melissa O’Brien said there are 18 parking spaces at the Rob’s trailhead and that when they’re full, parking spills out along the sides of the road.
They showed a plan for adding six more spaces a short distance away, with other stretches of the road marked “No Parking.”
Wagoner said that as soon as Saturday, July 18, the district could put out signage and social media posts giving notice that restrictions are coming.
By August, a new county ordinance would give authority to the Rec District to ticket vehicles or tow them if necessary. County Attorney Margaret Olson said she can bring a draft ordinance to the next regular meeting of the council, which is set for July 29.
By September, any vehicles parked outside designated areas would be towed.
The council members generally agreed with that approach. Councilor Roger Armstrong said neighbors in the Rob’s area are putting up with trespassers, packages of dog waste left in their yards, and even tailgate parties.
Trails advocates, like Charlie Sturgis of the Mountain Trails Foundation, have hoped that an educational approach would solve the problems.
But Armstrong said that so far this season, that hasn’t worked.
“We’ve been having these conversations for over a year,” Armstrong said. “I’ve heard from Charlie and others, “Be kind, be gentle. Let’s educate. Let’s get the bike shops to inform people. Us making the decision today is not stopping any of that from happening. And if it is happening, then it’s not working. Because people are having barbecues and parties at the trailheads across the street from neighborhoods. They’re still directly impacting properties by trespassing up there. There are still conflicts happening up there… . Either the behaviors have to come under control very quickly, or we’re gonna have to go to the next step. And the next step is going to be closing that trailhead.”
Council Chairman Doug Clyde agreed, saying that the kinder, gentler approach has “failed miserably.”
Armstrong suggested that for a subsequent stage, the county can issue free parking permits for local residents. Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas said that can be done legally and would not be considered discrimination.
“It will not be an equal-protection issue because we have a rational basis,” Thomas said. “And the rational basis is, ‘You’re a resident. You have certain rights over non-residents, who have not paid’—Just like we have those kind of same things for, for example, individuals using our landfill and so forth. So we can make those kind of reasonable restrictions.”
Councilor Kim Carson said the issue is incredibly difficult.
Doug Clyde said the resolution won’t be easy, and it’s not going to come soon.
“We know, just from the experience of others, as well as our own personal experience, that everything that we do here is going to be difficult and expensive and is going to irritate people—be that a person who’s driving up from Salt Lake, or a person in the county who’s used to driving over there and parking at will—this is not going to be pleasant or easy,” Clyde said. “It’s going to take a long time. We’ll be at this for years before we get it solved. But we want to take the immediate step of beginning.”
Another trailhead came up during the discussion; one that the councilors said could be dangerous.
They said a resident had supplied photos, reportedly from a drone, of Matterhorn Drive and Innsbruckstrasse in Summit Park, which are roads intended to be fire exit routes. The photos show around 45 cars parked along both sides of the road.
Council Member Glenn Wright said the situation is frightening.