Residents advocate for wildlife fencing near Jeremy Ranch
Residents in several Snyderville Basin neighborhoods are rallying to advocate for wildlife fencing along portions of Interstate 80. Their effort comes after several moose were killed on the highway near Jeremy Ranch.
Ralph Hottinger, a Hidden Cove resident, is among those spearheading the effort to recruit residents to "stand together and demand effective fencing be placed near Jeremy Ranch and Summit Park."
"We are worried about collisions with wildlife, such as elk, moose and deer," Hottinger said. "We are worried about it killing drivers and the animals."
Residents have started a grassroots campaign to put pressure on the Utah Department of Transportation to consider placing wildlife fencing or crossings along Interstate 80 near Jeremy Ranch and Summit Park. A meeting to establish a citizen’s committee will be held Monday, Nov. 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Richins Building.
"We are trying to push for the installation of wildlife fencing, tunnels or overpasses. The purpose of the meeting is to put a committee together to determine which solution is best," Hottinger said.
Hottinger said the issue recently gained more attention when a pair of calves were killed near the Jeremy Ranch off-ramp. A post about the deaths to a neighborhood website had nearly 40 comments from residents about the need for fencing or crossings.
"My stomach ached the morning I saw it on social media," Hottinger said. "Those two calves had been sleeping in my yard and today the mom was in our front yard and seemed depressed."
Hottinger, who has lived in the area for more than 50 years, said moose would frequently come onto his one-acre property to access water. However, his guests have recently stopped coming.
"I think they have all been killed or transferred out of the area. DWR is definitely doing their job," he said.
Residents have sent letters and reached out to the Division of Wildlife Resources, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Summit County Council about the issue, with some blaming a new concrete wall as the culprit. The 42-inch-high barrier runs for nearly two miles along the eastbound lanes of the Interstate near Summit Park. It was placed there as a safety measure for Millennium Trail users. Construction was completed Sept. 25.
Carla Gehring, a Jeremy Ranch resident, said the area between Parley’s Summit and the U.S. 40 interchange has been overlooked and "we don’t understand why."
"We are a hotspot from the top of Parley’s all the way to U.S. 40 and there are always animal carcasses along the road," Gehring said. "People are tired of it and the latest thing that happened with the two calves being killed is unnecessary."
Gehring said many residents live in the area because of the wildlife and, for the most part, respect them.
"And then to have them just mowed down on the highway?" Gehring said. "It will take the death of a driver and/or passenger to get them to do something. We want to get enough pressure and get some answers as to when they are going to do something."
John Gleason, UDOT’s public information officer, said UDOT is aware of the concerns and will be working closely with the county and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to examine what solution would best address the issue.
"There are a few different possibilities and that’s what we will be looking at. We have a great track record of addressing these needs and trying to prevent wildlife vehicle collisions," Gleason said. "We are committed to working closely with Summit County and DWR as to what makes sense."
UDOT examined the areas it considers "hot spots" for wildlife activity several years ago, which included the area east of Parley’s Summit, and has been addressing those needs over the last few years, Gleason said.
"We are tackling those as we can, but we have to prioritize and work within our budget," Gleason said. "There is a project that is slated for that area in 2017 that could be a consideration. But the issue is absolutely on our radar and a concern we share as well."
Wednesday, County Council Chair Kim Carson said council members have fielded several calls from residents about the issue. However, the Utah Department of Transportation would be responsible for commissioning a project of that nature.
Derrick Radke, Summit County Public Works director, said the county’s only role in those discussions would be to help advocate for either fencing or crossings because it is UDOT’s responsibility to address those issues along the Interstate. Radke said if the County Council felt it was a priority, council could allocate funding.
"If we agree, which council probably does, we could voice our position and try and influence UDOT to program that with their budget," Radke said. "They have done it up Parley’s from the other side, but what I understand is they don’t have the budget for anything like that on our side. This has been mentioned in discussions I have had with UDOT over the years and I had impression that they were looking at it."
Radke did not have plans to attend Monday’s meeting, adding that he had not been made aware of it.
A former Summit County victim advocate who was facing a felony count of misusing public money pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge in a deal with prosecutors.