Basin Rec discontinued plowing Rob’s Trailhead this winter, part of larger push to regulate trail congestion
As the pandemic drove more people to socially distanced recreation on Summit County’s trails this year, officials for the entities that try to maintain access to the backcountry tried to reduce the impacts from the parking and trail congestion problems that coincided with increased use.
The Sunpeak neighborhood features many popular trailheads that give access to great views, hiking and mountain biking, including Rob’s Trail, which has an access point on Bear Hollow Drive.
The Snyderville Basin Recreation District has attempted to manage that and other trailheads with new and expanded strategies this year, including pursuing, along with County Attorney Margaret Olson, changes to county codes to enable Basin Rec employees to issue parking tickets.
The district has also installed traffic counters on trails to get a sense of when and where trails are used to be able to more efficiently disperse traffic and effectively place new trails and trailheads.
While portions of Rob’s Trail remain open year round, an easement over private land just 400 yards up the trail from the parking lot only allows public use from May 15 to Nov. 1, Basin Rec Interim Director Melissa O’Brien said. That’s prompted Basin Rec officials to close the trailhead for the winter and to discontinue plowing the parking lot to dissuade use.
“There is no real reason to have an access point so close to a seasonal closure,” O’Brien wrote in an email to The Park Record. “Further, we have committed to assisting with parking enforcement in the area. Closing the trailhead and assisting with roadside winter enforcement contribute to that commitment.”
O’Brien said the district is negotiating with the multiple private landowners that control the easements underlying Rob’s Trail to potentially modify the agreements to allow for year-round use. But in the meantime she said that Basin Rec would regulate the area and maintain the current agreements.
Portions of Rob’s are still accessible from Colin’s Trail with parking available at the Park City Community Church, O’Brien added.
The COVID crush of recreators and a lack of available reservations to ski at Park City Mountain Resort has led some locals to bemoan the loss of another access point into the wilderness.
O’Brien said the pandemic-caused uptick in trail users has caused Basin Rec to “take a hard look” at how Rob’s Trail — and others — are managed.
“Recent increases in trail use have caused us to evaluate all access points from a different perspective,” O’Brien wrote. “The current easement has been in place since 2017, but we now have the jurisdiction and staff capacity to enforce trailhead parking. We remain committed to preserving access to community trails, but there are certain locations and conditions that concentrate use to a degree that can only be improved by regulation.”
O’Brien referred to the closure as part of a dispersal strategy designed to distribute trail users among the trails that remain open year round.
“Limiting parking is intended to encourage people to visit less congested trailheads,” O’Brien wrote. “Parking is a lever that allows us to adjust congestion. This dispersal strategy is a process we began over the summer in response to the spike in trail usage. We expect this increase to continue into the winter.”
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