A little more development could help Oakley’s bikers, hikers and ‘horse people’
Oakley is growing its trails system.
The city government has partnered with various organizations, including the South Summit Trails Foundation, to help create and expand trails over the past three years — including the Franson Lane Trail off Franson Lane, the Steven’s Grove trail off Millrace Road, a loop trail around the Rodeo Grounds and the Oakley Trail Park, which consists of a small network of mountain bike trails near the town water tower off Pinion Lane.
The overarching goal of trailbuilders is to connect them into a single network called the Weber River Corridor Project, starting with Steven’s Grove on the west side of town and running the Oakley Trail Park on the east side that travels the length of the Weber River through Oakley — making five miles of trails that visits the riverside open to the public.
Currently most of the five-mile zone is owned by private homeowners.
“I’m all about private home ownership and we know that development is going to come, I’m not living under a rock,” said Corey Dutton, board secretary of the South Summit Trails Foundation. “But if we can get ahead of it a little bit, we’ll have a chance to create a better quality of life for the community.”
The Franson Lane trail and the Steven’s Grove trail are both significant steps toward the Weber River Corridor Trail — each are a mile long and loop by a stretch of the river. They were acquired through grants from Summit County and the Utah Sports Commission with help from the Summit Land Conservancy, Mountain Trails Foundation and South Summit Trails Foundation. For example, Summit Land Conservancy was able to purchase a 23-acre chunk of land through negotiating with landowners and sell the parcel the Steven’s Grove trail is on to Oakley for some $230,000, which the city purchased via a $500,000 grant from Summit County.
Tom Smart of the Oakley City Council is a big proponent of the trails system, along with others in the community like former mayor Doug Evans. But then, so are a lot of people. He says the town has something of a mandate to build trails.
In February of 2017, the city held a public hearing on the Weber River Corridor Project. Out of 109 participants, 71.5 percent approved of the idea — 21.2 percent were against a trail system and 7.3 percent were undecided.
“We don’t have sidewalks in Oakley and streets are getting more and more dangerous,” Smart said. “This is a great alternative way for transportation. Not to mention the fact of enjoying nature.”
Along with that broad approval of trails comes a mandate to create trails for a broad swath of the population. The plan is to create trails near the Weber River with little or no incline, allowing all types of users to enjoy the trails, from older folks who want to walk along its banks to fishermen and kids on bikes and horseback riders. The latter was a sticking point for the South Summit Trails Foundation.
“Because Oakley is primarily an equestrian community and it has an agricultural and equestrian heritage, we want horse people to feel like they can use these trails and they are not pushed off the trails by other users,” Dutton said. “We feel like there are so many bike-specific trails in Park City, they have been pushed out of Park City. … They can come here and they are not going to be terrified by certain users.”
Smart is one of those “horse people.”
“I love riding my horse and the idea of riding my horse into town,” he said. “But you take your life into your hands when you do that with the way people drive these days.”
Ironically, it might take allowing a little more development to open the corridor up to the public.
To link the trail system, the city and the organizations involved are approaching each landowner along the corridor and talking to them about what it would take to get an easement on the land along the river. Smart said one way the city can bargain with the landowners is by permitting them to build to a higher density on their land than they are zoned for. Smart is hoping that within the next two years the Oakley City Council or the municipal Planning Commission will be able to develop an agreement of some kind to formally offer landowners greater density on their land in exchange for an area of the corridor.
Currently, Smart says there are seven landowners in the corridor whose lands are mainly zoned for one unit per five acres or one unit per 40 acres. So far, Smart says the negotiations with landowners have gone smoothly, though they are being approached one at a time as the trail system progresses. And he’s optimistic about the future of the trail, even if it means allowing a few more houses on land adjacent to the corridor.
“Compared to Francis and Kamas, we have very few (new developments),” Smart said. “We have less than a dozen home starts a year in the city. It’s not like we’re being inundated right now. It’s just a matter of having a plan.”
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Returning to Park City’s Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church on Saturday is the annual Bike and Hike fundraiser in support of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.