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Highland residents rally for trail

Penny Evans, a resident of Highland Estates, is organizing a "safety walk" along Highland Drive May 7 to draw attention to the need for a paved trail in the neighborhood.

She and at least three other families will walk along the road’s shoulder to illustrate how dangerous it is for pedestrians and cyclists.

Evans has been calling and emailing neighbors trying to make it a community event in anticipation of a May 11 meeting of the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District Board that could approve plans for a new trail.

According to Rena Jordan, director of the recreation district, the planning process for the trail has been in the works since 2009, and voters approved a bond to fund new trails in 2010. If the board votes on current plans, the construction of a new paved trail along Highland Drive could begin as early as July.

Evans said she and some other neighbors feel as though the plans, which have received community input for years, are being threatened by protests from the equestrian community, most recently led by former recreation board member Dawn Bowes.

Evans said she’s been advocating either a sidewalk or a hard trail since moving to the area in 1998. She spoke with the recreation board as well as the former Summit County Commission on numerous occasions requesting better safety for pedestrians.

At recreation board meetings this spring, she noticed new people attending the meetings and voicing opposition to a hard trail. She did not recognize them as residents of Highland Estates. She also did not recognize them from any of the previous community planning sessions seeking public input.

"A lot of people in my neighborhood were totally taken by surprise. It was unexpected," she said. "It’s heartbreaking because we’ve worked with so many people It’s a process that’s been going on for years and years."

Especially frustrating, Evans said, is the fact that she personally advocated for more equestrian access in previous years and didn’t have support from the horse-owning community.

Several residents in Highland Estates have an easement adjoining their backyards that Evans tried to have graded for equestrian riders. She met opposition. She attended past recreation board meetings advocating that the soft trail that goes underneath U.S. 40 be connected to the Silver Summit soft trails. No one else attended the meeting in support of the plan.

Now years of work to help residents walk, bike or skate to Trailside or Newpark is being challenged.

"We’ve spent years working with people, not against people," she said.

Evans said she doesn’t mind if a sidewalk was built instead of a paved trail, but her neighbors would prefer the trail because it will serve multiple uses.

Soft trails, preferred by equestrians, cross country skiers and joggers, cannot be plowed in winter for use as a transportation trail, which is what is needed, she said. The county does a great job with snow removal on existing paved trails.

Jordan said the recreation board on May 11 will look at "tweaks" to the design proposed by equestrian users. If everything is approved quickly, the trail should be complete by the end of October.


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