Summit County elected officials want more specifics on trail solutions
After no-parking zones, longer-term fixes remain challenging
There are so many people on the area’s trails that the effects have spilled over into the neighborhoods that surround them, with impacts ranging from parked cars choking streets to dog poop bag piling up to tailgaters enjoying a beverage on someone else’s property.
The Summit County Council on Wednesday heard the Snyderville Basin Recreation District’s short-term plan for dealing with the issues, packaged in a report with breakdowns for area trailheads that included their usage numbers, ways to improve them and longer-term goals like dedicated public transportation solutions.
But the report, while lauded as a capable trails master plan for the near future, wasn’t met with universal support from the elected officials.
“This is just a bit too general for the acute problem that we have right now,” said Councilor Roger Armstrong. “And we do have a very acute problem out there.”
He summed up the proposals as restricting parking around popular trailheads, increasing access in less-congested areas, building new trails and considering making certain trails directional or single-use to reduce conflicts.
The number of trail users has exploded in recent years, officials have said, with a further jump seen last year as people sought outdoor recreation amid the pandemic. Basin Rec installed counters at a dozen popular trails last fall to measure how many people use trails and when. The report indicates the district’s non-transportation trails see around 1,200 users each day.
The trail overcrowding issue rose to require action last summer when officials were told illegally parked cars were blocking emergency access in Summit Park. A group involving multiple county departments and other stakeholders also focused on another heavily used area, in the Sun Peak neighborhood near Rob’s Trail.
The Summit County Attorney’s Office worked to change county code to enable Basin Rec officials to enforce parking restrictions, and the council heard that nearly 10,000 feet of roadway had been signed and enforced as no-parking zones as a result.
That seems to be addressing some of the parking issues, but longer-term solutions are proving more challenging.
The report identifies three phases of solutions, with the first focusing on parking issues, the second aiming to drive traffic to less congested areas and the final phase meant to reduce the need for parking by developing public transportation links with trailheads.
One of the challenges officials identified in steering users to less-trafficked trails is that the busier areas are often popular for a reason. Rob’s Trail, for instance, starts near treeline and quickly accesses the Park City ridgeline and its attendant views.
The trailhead is accessed after a drive through the Sun Peak neighborhood that gains significant elevation. Colin’s trailhead is identified as an alternate access to the trail network, and an underused one. But it’s significantly lower and would require a hiker or biker to gain nearly 750 vertical feet before reaching the same elevation as Rob’s trailhead.
Other proposed solutions to address overcrowding are converting some trails to uphill or downhill only during certain times and restricting trails to one kind of use, like hiker- or biker-only areas. Officials have said that will be standard practice going forward.
The council requested Basin Rec officials return around Memorial Day with an update after the trails dry out and summer usage starts to increase. Armstrong said he wanted to see the next report include a specific diagnosis of the problem — something along the lines of how many cars or users need to be removed from certain areas — and potential solutions for doing so.
He acknowledged that it would be a tall task for newly hired Basin Rec Director Dana Jones.
Armstrong suggested he needed something more concrete to take back to members of the voting public who have been impacted by an influx of trail users.
“I respond to residents. When residents complain to me, I need to respond back to them. … I do have an obligation to have a conversation with some of you if they say somebody is barbequing on my front lawn, literally,” he told Basin Rec officials. “And if I can now say look, we put up signs that say, ‘This is a neighborhood, please no barbequing on front lawns,’ that’s a good message to take back to constituents. But this is not perfectly helpful for me in terms of communicating that back.”
He stressed that future solutions would require collaboration among different county organizations and urged officials to work with, among other entities, the county’s transit district to identify ways to bring people to different trailheads.
“If we’re really going to do this, you guys can’t be isolated doing this,” Armstrong said. “You guys can’t say, ‘We’ll take care of our trails part and we’re going to deal with parking, we’ll enforce the parking, and sometime in the future when transit finally hits its stride and figures out how to use microtransit to move people, then we can do this.’ I don’t want to see that.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that many county departments were involved in the group that was convened to address trails issues.
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The Summit County Council is poised to extend its order allowing school mask requirements at a meeting Monday. No school is close to the case-number threshold, according to state data.