Sinkhole-like depression discovered off Rail Trail | ParkRecord.com

Sinkhole-like depression discovered off Rail Trail

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

State officials are investigating what caused a sinkhole-like depression to form off the Rail Trail last spring, a discovery that has not been widely publicized in the several months since it was found.

An official in Utah State Parks and Recreation, the government department that controls the Rail Trail on Tuesday said the depression is close to Wyatt Earp Way and it sits near a Rail Trail bridge designated as Bridge #1. Details about its location were not available Tuesday morning, but a Mountain Trails Foundation manager said it is between 50 and 100 feet off the Rail Trail.

Laurie Backus, who is the Heber-based State Parks assistant region manager, said the depression might be a sinkhole. State Parks had not made that determination by Tuesday morning, though, and it was not immediately clear whether the depression is on State Parks land.

Backus said the depression was cordoned off with caution tape and signs shortly after it was discovered. State Parks does not want people to approach the depression.

The Rail Trail is a state park that stretches from Park City to Echo, and it is popular with bicyclists, runners and pedestrians. It was once a spur of the Union Pacific railroad. Private property abuts the Rail Trail through much of Prospector.

Backus said the depression is about five feet in diameter. She did not have information about its depth. Backus planned to visit the site on Wednesday morning.

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"There’s a hole. We still need to investigate," she said.

The stretch of the Rail Trail near the depression remains open.

She said there are several potential causes, including the possibility of there being a mine shaft close by, underground water causing instability on the surface and some sort of erosion.

Silver mining once dominated the Park City economy, and shafts and underground mine tunnels stretch through much of the city. The land close to the Rail Trail was not a major underground mining site, but mine tailings were kept in the area close to the Rail Trail, in parts of what became the Prospector neighborhood.

The Park City Police Department received a report about the depression in the afternoon of June 30, and public police logs indicated the city’s Streets Department and the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District, which manages the local sewer system, were told.

Mike Luers, the general manager of the reclamation district, said his crews investigated in late June or early July and determined a sewer-line collapse was not the cause. Had a line collapsed, water could have entered the line and created the depression.

He said a major sewer line, known as a trunk line, between Park City and a reclamation district facility at Silver Creek follows the Rail Trail.

"One of the first things we were concerned with was we had a hole in our trunk line," Luers said.

It was reported in the spring, but Backus said it filled with water from the melting snow. The investigators until recently were unable to observe the depression. Backus on Wednesday planned to take photographs of the depression and plot its coordinates with a Global Positioning System.

"This is well off the surface of the travel path," she said about the effects on the Rail Trail. "The main travel path is fine."

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