On Wednesday the Summit County Council will consider officially joining a multiagency effort to take a comprehensive look at a long range transportation plan for the Wasatch Mountains. The Wasatch Summit Interlocal Plan and Funding Agreement includes a $50,000 pledge to help fund the study. Park City Municipal Corp. is already on board with a pledge of $100,000 and the state of Utah is kicking in $2.6 million.
The council shouldn't hesitate to approve the measure. Summit County's livelihood is inextricably tied to the Wasatch Range and its representatives should take an active role in mapping its future.
The language in the funding agreement spells out the urgency of addressing the growing pressures on the mountains that sustain both our ski industry and our water and air quality:
"Increasing uses of the Wasatch Mountains, population growth, vehicular traffic, economic and development pressures, and potential climate change impacts are combining in a way that is increasingly difficult to manage and threatens the economy, water resources, environment and quality of life for more than a million residents and visitors."
Key partners in the plan include the Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Transit Authority. Their cooperation will be essential in solving traffic challenges while also ensuring that expediting travel time doesn't compromise the fragile mountain ecosystem.
Salt Lake City, Sandy, Cottonwood Heights, Alta and Wasatch County are also participating so that entities on both sides of the Wasatch can explore the best ways to maximize access to recreation opportunities in their own jurisdictions without creating unintended consequences for each other.
The Wasatch Summit agreement is an extraordinary opportunity for a multitude of agencies to study a host of interrelated issues including potential opportunities to link existing ski areas in a way that might ease traffic congestion and thereby enhance everyone's experience in the mountains.
Here in Summit County, we like to brag about easy accessibility to our mountains and resorts. But that accessibility could also be our downfall. It is time to make a serious investment in protecting the Wasatch Mountains and approving the Wasatch Summit agreement is an excellent place to start.