Silver Creek, formed as an equestrian community in the 1960s and still with many unpaved roads, has been facing safety issues with those riding horses, biking or walking. An ongoing study on behalf of the University of Utah is intended to help the community better grasp the most efficient locations for future trails to solve this problem.
The project is being coordinated by Martin Buchert, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. It utilizes geographic information systems or GIS and involves aerial photographs that have been put into a computer program.
The GIS survey is being completed for the Service Area 3 Trails and Parks Advisory Committee, (TPAC) chaired by Dawn Bowes. Graduate students participate in the project, which helps planning majors visualize and analyze data on the basis of spatial relationships.
"The motivation on the part of the TPAC was to accomplish a planning study that could identify where you might run trails such that they would minimize potential impacts on the neighborhood," Buchert said.
Minimizing the necessity to move fences or landscaping and avoiding impacts to utility poles, ditches, fire hydrants and culverts are priorities, Buchert added. The survey will identify all features within the right-of-way on both sides of roads that the county can legally claim.
"This map will help us in terms of road planning. In order to get right-of-way trails in, we need to understand what the costs are going to be," Bowes said. The only available maps of Silver Creek are circa-1970s, she added.
Bowes wants to work proactively with landowners who may have landscaping that is in the way of potential trails. She also wants to pinpoint where all culverts in the community are to determine the best locations for trail crossings.
"If we extended the road culverts in place so that they go to the length of the road right-of-way, that would solve 80 percent of the problem," Bowes said.
Buchert said the survey will look at different "impact features" such ditches, utility poles and landscaping, to determine which side of a road to put a trail in planning for a neighborhood-wide system.
"The guiding principle is, 'Don't route the trail on anybody's private property,'" Buchert said. "The safety of pedestrians on those roads is becoming more of a concern. There's a concern to move the non-vehicular traffic off the roadway."
Bowes said the goal is to find the "path of least resistance based on the cost," since she said Service Area 3 is a community that "scrapes by" because it has no trails budget.
"The more we pave [roads], the more precarious it is [for pedestrians]," Bowes said. "We need to create the possibility for people to travel off of the road."
TPAC member Michael Montgomery said the Board of Trustees just voted on Monday to move $10,000 from its roads budget to trails, after the endorsement of the 2014 budget was approved by a tiebreaking vote.
For right-of-way trails, Montgomery said Westwood Road, from Redden Road to Silver Creek Road, only has two properties that do not have an established trail in place that is continuous with the existing trails.
"The Westwood Road trail is already in place. It just needs to be maintained and repaired in a couple locations," Montgomery said.
Montgomery added that many residents who were at Monday's Board meeting were in favor of trail connectivity and said he looks forward to having an actual trails budget going forward.