Toll Canyon Management Plan approved | ParkRecord.com

Toll Canyon Management Plan approved

Whenever Ed and Lynne Rutan encountered hikers in the narrow canyon near their Pinebrook home, Ed would stop and ask them if they knew about the Toll Canyon Stewardship and Management Plan. If they were not aware of it, he would spend several minutes trying to convince them to become involved in the process.

Last week, the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District Board unanimously approved the management plan, which outlines regulations and uses for the 781-acre property located between the Pinebrook, Summit Park and Timberline neighborhoods. The Recreation District and Utah Open Lands purchased the property in 2014.

More than 150 comments were submitted on behalf of the plan through a survey and via email. Several dozen residents also attended one of the two open houses about the plan, including the Rutans.

Gary Resnick, a Recreation District board member and Jeremy Ranch resident, said the approved draft is a "nicely developed plan that received a lot of public input." The board approved the plan, with suggested edits, Nov. 10. A finalized draft has not yet been posted to the district’s website.

"There was a strong consensus from the public that this was indeed a unique area and that this should be preserved against development," Resnick said, adding that the plan is reflective of those interests.

A significant amount of the public comment concerned multi-use access to the canyon, such as mountain biking and horseback riding, according to Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands.

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"I think that was one of the bigger issues people talked about," Fisher said.

Seventy respondents were in favor of allowing mountain bikes in the canyon, while 42 were against multi-use trails. However, 99 favored more hiking-only designations, while nine were against it, according to Bob Radke, Recreation District trails and open space manager.

"The final draft of the plan addresses that balance of those comments," Radke said. "We are not always going to make everyone happy, but I think we balanced it out."

When Utah Open Lands and the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District purchased the property, it was placed under a conservation easement. Both entities worked together to craft a plan that would achieve the goals of each, such as providing recreation and protecting wildlife and scenic values.

"With any management plan we have to take into account the goals and objectives of the land owner, but also take into account what is there on the property and how best to balance goals and objectives against different conservation values," Fisher said.

Certain aspects of the plan were reexamined based on the input received from the public, Fisher said.

"I think that all of our open spaces are jewels and to have the public demonstrate their care and consideration of these open spaces is huge both in terms of the forever protection of landscape but also in terms of ongoing stewardship," Fisher said. "It’s amazing to see the level of interest that people have in making sure that management of these places is done and done well.

"I applaud the community for coming out to the open houses and for providing comment. It was incredibly important to the creation of the plan," Fisher added.

The Rutans have regularly hiked in the canyon since they moved to Pinebrook more than 10 years ago and will continue to do so. They closely followed the crafting of the management plan, with a focus on the impacts that multi-use trail connections could have on the canyon.

"The good news is that the stream-side trail was approved for hikers only and a large swath of backcountry was left without trails. Of course we were disappointed about the connection to the Mid-Mountain cycling trail because we don’t believe the fragile, narrow canyon can sustain a heavy influx of biking traffic or that the trail can be cut without significant damage to the thick, 100-year old forest," Lynne Rutan said in an email to The Park Record. "It appears that it will be at least a couple of years before public access from the I-80 end of the canyon can be arranged. It is our hope that in the move from concept to construction the potentially high costs and usage patterns will cause the board to reassess the need and public good of the proposed multi-use trail and its connection to the Mid-Mountain Trail."