What do you think of this long-range trails plan for the mountains adjacent to the City of Provo?
In early 2020, the Utah Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA) was asked by Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest to assist in developing a long-range trails plan for the mountains adjacent to the City of Provo. This urban-wildlife interface area currently has several official trails that are very popular, such as Rock Canyon, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and the Y. A number of “social trails” that have been in existence for decades, even though they are not officially recognized or maintained by the City or the Forest Service, such as the very popular routes to the summits of Squaw Peak and Y Mountain.
Further, in recent years, new trails have been constructed illegally that are also heavily used, including several mountain biking loops along Squaw Peak Road. Given the rapidly increasing population of Utah County and the growing interest in outdoor recreation by all kinds of trail users (hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, motorized, and cross-country skiing), there is increasing pressure on our public lands, which is likely to result in more illegal (and often unsafe and unsustainable) trails if official means are not increased.
Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest, Provo City, and the Utah Valley Trails Alliance are committed to improving our foothills trails network to meet the recreation needs of our citizens, by creating and maintaining trails that are environmentally sustainable, legal, and accessible to a variety of users. This plan is intended to provide a framework for that effort, including immediate improvements and long-term visions.
In June 2020, UVTA created a task force of 15 members, including representatives of the National Forest, the City, and UVTA, trail design and construction experts, and several Provo residents from several trail user communities. The task force evaluated the current conditions in the area, such as existing official and social trails, did extensive research in the field, and discussed possible ideas, developing the draft consensus proposals listed below. These proposals fall into the following five categories:
- Improve an existing official city or national forest trail, such as rerouting eroded sections
- Designate an existing social trail as official, possibly including improvements. Such a designation may include restrictions, such as only allowing certain modes of travel (hike, bike, horse, nonmotorized, etc.) or only allowing certain directions of travel.
- Leave as-is an existing social trail, likely due to a need to delay a final decision for future reconsideration
- Remove an existing social trail, restoring it to a natural state and preventing reconstruction
- Construct a new official trail, possibly with travel restrictions as above.
These types of proposals may also apply to trailheads, interpretive viewpoints, and other improvements.
The next step is to obtain feedback from the public about these proposals to use in the creation of a final plan to be adopted and implemented by the City and the Forest Service. Public acceptance of this plan is crucial as we must rely on the public to assist us in implementing it, and avoiding the perpetuation of illegal trail building, trespassing on private property, vandalism, and other issues occurring in the area.
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As you review these proposals and consider your feedback, we ask that you bear in mind some of the constraints on what we are able to do:
- Landowner Rights . We must respect the rights of land owners to control the development and accessibility on their land. The Forest Service can only officially designate trails on land it owns. Provo City also owns a significant amount of land in the study area on which it has ultimate control. However, there is also a large amount of private property in this area, and trails can only be built here with the official permission of the owners.
- Implementation Costs . Building and maintaining trails requires a significant investment. While construction grants are sometimes available, neither the city nor the Forest Service is likely to gain increased ongoing funding to construct and maintain dozens of miles of new trail, so implementing this plan will require a commitment from the public to assist through donations and volunteer service.
- Sustainability . The desire to build more trails must balanced with the needs to protect the scenic value of this landscape, preserve wildlife habitat, and protect against erosion.
- Accessibility . Although motor vehicles were banned in this area many years ago (except for the Squaw Peak Road), there are still several user communities who need to be satisfied, including hiking, horseback riding, trail running, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, and even handicapped access. The trail network should satisfy the needs and desires of all of these types of users. This does not mean that every trail must be open to every user, just that the trail system as a whole has plenty for everyone.
In your feedback, please be specific about the exact location to which you are referring, and be constructive by offering alternative proposals where you disagree with the plan.
The proposal is grouped into two areas. Read the proposed actions, see the maps, and leave your feedback.
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