Mountain Accord introduces itself to the public
February 8, 2014
In an ongoing collaborative process to address the future of transportation, recreation, the economy and the environment in the Wasatch Mountains, the Mountain Accord held its first two public scoping meetings this week to introduce the community to its effort and receive input.
Those meetings were held Tuesday at Park City High School and Wednesday at Skyline High School in Salt Lake. In collaboration with Intrepid Hybrid Communications, both meetings featured informative stations about the four pillars of the Mountain Accord as well as a white board to post suggestions.
Representatives from government agencies and environmental and recreational groups were present at the meetings to speak with residents about the process. Alta Mayor Tom Pollard said that his town deals with the "infinite question of capacity" and that harmonizing transportation and recreation is important.
"Trying to find a balance between providing unlimited access to everything but also making sure we respect environmental issues such as watershed protection and not overcrowding an area [are important]," Pollard said.
Striking a balance between demand on the Wasatch Mountains and environmental preservation was a common theme with much of the participants. Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty said his organization is involved because the mountains represent the "lion’s share" of Utah’s billion-dollar ski industry.
"The whole idea of the process is to make sure [skiing is] sustainable both environmentally and business-wise for many years to come," Rafferty said. "We’re especially focused on the transportation element."
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Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, said his organization has been working for a year-and-a-half to bring the Mountain Accord process to the public.
"Protecting land in the alpine environments is important [to us]. We would obviously like to expand the existing wilderness boundaries," Fisher said. "As we see populations rise on both the Wasatch Front and Back, some sort of public transit connection should take place."
Fisher said he would like to see a rail project on the Interstate 80 Parley’s Canyon corridor, but added that rail in the not-as-developed Cottonwood canyons is not a good idea.
"[Save Our Canyons] is in favor of utilizing our existing infrastructure. Our mountains don’t need more infrastructure," Fisher said.
A similar idea was floated by Summit County Democratic Party Chair Glenn Wright. He said that making ski areas and trails accessible is important, but should be done using mass transit.
Wright left a suggestion saying, "Do not expand Guardsman’s Pass," referring to what he said was a potential plan by the Utah Department of Transportation to make the pass an all-winter road. Like Fisher, he also endorsed the idea of creating a rail line through Parley’s Canyon.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said that, as populations on the Wasatch Front and Back grow, the Salt Lake Valley is being "linked" to Summit County and Park City. He said that watershed protection and preserving his county’s ski resorts and open spaces are crucial.
Ralph Becker, Salt Lake City mayor, said that the city has been managing the Wasatch Mountains for well over 100 years but that the boundaries of Salt Lake City do not correspond to the city’s watershed responsibilities.
"How do we protect the watershed but also, how do we look out for the future [by doing] our collective best to assure that we and future generations have this incredible resource here?" Becker said.
Decades ago, Becker said transportation problems in the Cottonwood canyons were addressed much differently than they are now.
"Twenty-five years ago, we looked at how we can accommodate cars in the [Cottonwood] Canyons," Becker said. "The solution [now] is not cars that much we can say."
For more information on the Mountain Accord and to submit online comments, visit mountainaccord.com.
Phase One of the Mountain Accord will draw from public input, plans and studies and collaboration among the participants and will continue for roughly the next 12 months.
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