Summit County will start towing at trailheads in the coming weeks as illegal parking poses a fire danger
Summit County is stepping up enforcement around some of its busiest trailheads to combat issues of congestion that have started to impact neighbors with annoyances like mountain bikers tailgating in the middle of neighborhoods, or safety issues like blocking emergency access routes.
County councilors said last week that kinder, gentler options to reduce illegal parking had failed to produce the necessary results.
“It’s been a month. It hasn’t gotten better, if anything it’s gotten worse,” Councilor Roger Armstrong said. “… The nice words about it aren’t going to fly anymore. Either the behaviors have to come under control very quickly, or we’re going to have to go to the next step. And the next step is going to be closing (the Rob’s Trail) trailhead.”
Two areas were listed as being of particular concern to the council, Rob’s Trail near Utah Olympic Park and the Summit Park Trailhead, where people parking illegally have blocked emergency routes through the crowded neighborhood with steep hills and winding, narrow streets.
But ticketing at trailheads requires time from sheriff’s deputies, and officials heard that Sheriff’s Office resources are stretched thin by, among other things, the office’s role in enforcing and educating citizens about the county’s mask mandate.
The plan is for Snyderville Basin Recreation District employees to take over enforcement action at the beginning of August after the County Council and the district’s administrative control board change regulations to allow Basin Rec employees to write parking tickets.
Already, Basin Rec has installed signs at the congested trailheads directing people to overflow parking areas.
Officials say the enforcement actions will progress from education to tickets to towing. Councilors requested the timeline be accelerated because of the safety issues associated with blocking access for emergency vehicles, and enforcement is slated to begin soon after the necessary code changes, scheduled to occur July 29.
Matt Wagoner, trails and open space manager for Basin Rec, said that the district is tackling the trail congestion issue from another angle, as well, investing $70,000 for more than a dozen trail counters to be placed in high-traffic areas.
The hope is that by compiling data about what kind of users are on the trails at what times and which direction they’re traveling, the district can pursue management strategies to lessen the effects of congestion.
Ben Castro, the chair of the administrative control board, said that eventually officials would like to see a permitting system that would ease access for Summit County users who pay for the trails through their taxes and charge visiting users to access the trail systems.
That’s an approach Armstrong said he supports, as well.
Officials indicated they would also like to address the for-profit mountain bike touring companies that use Summit County trails and are not required to pay to do so.
The first step, they said, is to address issues affecting the safety of residents.
“If we can move up the (enforcement) timeframe, I think we should do so,” said County Councilor Glenn Wright. “The pictures I’ve seen from Summit Park recently are really frightening, potentially with fire season coming up.”
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.