Park City’s vaunted trail system may be getting too popular
Park City’s gilded reputation as a trails mecca has steadily grown over the last decade and residents are justifiably proud of the repeated accolades. But the local trail system’s popularity is also cause for concern. Like our national parks, it seems, Park City’s trails are being loved to death.
This summer, the 400-plus miles of pathways that interlace the community have been chock full of mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, dog walkers and the occasional errant ATV. And while most of the encounters have been courteous, tension is on the rise among and amid user groups.
Hikers and runners are complaining that they have been neglected as more and more trails are designed for cyclists. Anyone who has been forced to leap into the bushes to allow a fast-moving bike to pass on a narrow path knows those uses don’t always jibe. There are also conflicts between uphill and downhill bike traffic on popular trails — and that doesn’t cover the accompanying dogs.
Backcountry traffic congestion has also been exacerbated by the advent of vans shuttling groups of cyclists to the summit of various scenic trailheads. The shuttles make it possible for inexperienced riders to access terrain that could exceed their skill levels, putting others on the trail in jeopardy as well as themselves.
Crowding on the trail system has not reached crisis proportions yet, but on the last few balmy fall weekends it has come close. It is time to begin devising a plan to address the problem before it becomes more serious.
Most of the area’s trails are maintained and regulated by Mountain Trails Foundation and the Snyderville Basin Recreation District. Both have done exceptional jobs developing new trails and maintaining them. But overall, the philosophy has been to rely on common courtesy to moderate potential conflicts. As trail use increases, though, users will be looking to Mountain Trails and the Rec District for measures to improve safety. Some of those measures should include designating additional hiking-only trials (there is only one) and continuing to find ways to separate uphill and downhill bike traffic.
And about those shuttles. If they can’t self-regulate the number of people they put on the trails, some agency should be given the authority to do so.
A group of Old Town residents say in a letter to the editor that Park City is better off leaving land on Marsac Avenue as open space than developing it into affordable housing.