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Wetlands stall trail construction

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Wetlands near the intersection of S.R. 32 and Rob Young Lane near Marion have the Summit County Commission rethinking construction plans for a non-motorized trail from Oakley to Kamas.

"If it can’t go all the way, then I see no point in wasting our money," Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said.

Completing the pathway along S.R. 32 could now require an additional $204,000, said Trish Murphy, a Summit County trails planner, adding that the price of the project has ballooned from an expected $344,555 to $559,070.

"Unfortunately, all of our problems these days are big-dollar problems because everything is so darned expensive," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.

Murphy underestimated the cost of mitigating .34 acres of wetlands near Crooked Creek to the satisfaction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency the regulates wetlands.

"We have to buy 3.5 acres to mitigate for the .34 acre," Murphy said.

She hopes Summit County can purchase a nearby parcel that contains wetlands from members of the Hoyt family for $20,000 per acre.

"We would be preserving it," Murphy said.

The land would be fenced and livestock would be kept off the ground in exchange for a permit from the Corps of Engineers to build the trail near Rob Young Lane.

"They’re obviously getting a much better deal," Murphy said.

The County Commission, however, balked at Murphy’s request for $3,000 to have the property appraised.

"Talk to the property owner first," Richer said.

Woolstenhulme questioned Murphy’s estimates that the county could purchase nearly four acres of land in South Summit for $70,000.

"If you can get that for $20,000 (per acre) so be it, I don’t have any objections," Woolstenhulme said. "But knowing [the landowner] I’d be very surprised if you get it for that or even twice that."

The landowner is not obligated to sell the land, Richer stressed.

"How righteous now are these current project estimates?" he added, insisting, "maybe you should have the discussion with [the landowner] first."

Murphy was encouraged by commissioners to begin negotiating a price for the land. She is counting on grant money from the Utah Department of Transportation to help offset the budget shortfall, however, admits the Utah Transportation Commission must approve those expenditures.

Meanwhile, wetlands near Crooked Creek aren’t the only sensitive areas threatening completion of the trail, Woolstenhulme said, adding that several other wetlands must be mitigated near Marion.

"Should we have known that there were wetlands along the corridor?" Richer asked Murphy during a recent meeting in Coalville.

According to Murphy, county officials have already committed $148,503 to the project.

The Kamas Valley project has been contentious since it was proposed in 2004. The County Commission approved a 1.5-mile path along S.R. 32 from Oakley to Marion after several property owners opposed a proposal for a 3.5-mile trail adjacent to an irrigation canal the feeds the Weber and Provo rivers.

"A mile and a half is fine, but is it a mile and a half that is going to connect up to something?" Richer said in May.


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