Summit County trail managers say recent etiquette talk could help forge solutions
The Park City-area trail system is a major asset for residents, but as the trails continue to gain popularity, ongoing problems like overcrowding, user conflicts and parking issues are worsening. On Tuesday evening, a large group of local leaders attempted to address them with an online trails etiquette meeting.
While local trail managers said the problems they heard and the solutions brought forward weren’t new, it was a productive meeting and one that will hopefully lead to progress.
Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, said there are some issues that can — and should — be remedied soon.
“Some of these short-term solutions should, I think, be pursued by staff and implemented sooner than later. I know the wheels of government and bureaucracy have to churn. Some of the things going on in Rob’s (Trail) and Summit Park are today not safe, and if that’s the case we need to (fix them),” he said. “I think resolving the parking issue in those areas is going to be a significant improvement and, going into a pretty significant fire season, (I’d) be glad to know thoroughfares aren’t blocked and narrowed.”
Sturgis added that an overflow of people parking illegally in Empire Pass for backcountry access after the resorts closed this spring was essentially solved after one or two cars were towed.
He said other issues of user behavior could be solved with more education, like encouraging riders to lower their speed when they don’t have a clear line of sight around a curve in the trail.
“People aren’t really aware of the consequences. You can be walking your child there. Maybe you’re mobile enough to get out of the way, but a child, a dog, not near as mobile,” he said. “I think speed is — speed and being aware of impacts on one another — is really important.”
Brian Hanton is the director of the Snyderville Basin Recreation District, which manages more than a hundred of miles of local trails. He echoed the importance of education and that parking enforcement might need to happen, though he said Basin Rec would try to be cooperative with users.
He said the district is working with companies on paid parking options for trailheads, but like ideas of requiring paid permits to use the trails, enforcing the policy would prove costly.
Summit County residents repeatedly raised the idea of charging users to pay for the trails as an alternative to the tax increase Basin Rec sought last year, and the sentiment was strong that people from outside the area come here to recreate but don’t pay for the trails.
Hanton cautioned against blaming outsiders for all of the issues, pointing out that even though he’s a local, he drives to certain trailheads.
He said he’s hopeful educating trail users, especially those unfamiliar with the area, would pay dividends. To that end, Basin Rec is working on improving signage to direct users elsewhere if a trailhead is full, and has been adding new trailheads to disperse users.
Sturgis suggested local bike shops could help in the education effort and suggested possibly improving trails between popular trailheads and less popular ones to entice users to go elsewhere. He also wondered whether public transportation or a sort of bike shuttle might be part of the solution.
Next up for the issue is a work session with the County Council in early July, Hanton said.
Sturgis said it’s helpful to keep the issue in perspective.
“We are blessed with this burden as a community,” he said. “We utilize this amenity at such a high level and we’re so privileged to have it, that we really should just try to see our way to good solutions and practicing good etiquette and using it the way it was intended.”
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