Looking west from Herriman offers a graceful view of the Oquirrh Mountains.
They look peaceful and give a view of open spaces. Much of the area has been home to mining for decades, but planners envision a different, greener future – by bringing more foot traffic to the foothills.
How? hiking trails. Many of them.
Expanding the trail system in the Oquirrhs – from Magna in the north to Herriman in the south – will not only provide more outdoor opportunities for Westsiders, but also ease the pressure to the east, where the Wasatch Mountains are often crowded with year-round recreation seekers.
“This is long overdue,” said Salt Lake County Council member Richard Snelgrove, “to have mountain recreation opportunities for those who live on the west side or anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley.”
Improvement of the Rose and Yellow Fork hiking trails
Many of the proposed hiking trails would be located in Yellow Fork and Rose Canyons, according to the county’s draft plan for the West Bank. The current hiking trails attract hikers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.
At a later date, Butterfield Canyon would be connected to Yellow Fork and Rose Canyons. The projects would be funded by tourism, recreation, culture and convention funds, said Walt Gilmore, deputy department head of planning and development for County Parks and Recreation.
The county is working with the Bureau of Land Management and Rio Tinto, which owns most of the Oquirrh’s east-facing slopes, to secure agreements and permits for the construction of unpaved, soft trails.
Some would come in the near future; others would take decades. Snelgrove said the first are expected to be ready this year or next.
Phase one envisages a 12-mile single track trail that would lead through BLM lands near Herriman to Yellow Fork Canyon. The county would then work on another phase at Butterfield Canyon, connecting Rose and Yellow Fork.
“A lot of this was in negotiation,” Snelgrove said, “but all of us at Salt Lake County and Rio Tinto work in good faith and have been good partners to work with.”
Project Knight Canal
County Council approved $10 million in February for the completion of east-west links, including trails along the Ritter and Utah and Salt Lake canals.
“Funding for hiking trails on the west side is a priority for me,” said Borough Mayor Jenny Wilson. “We know that over the past two years, more residents have been seeking outdoor recreation and are utilizing these resources like never before. It is important that we enable fairer access.”
The county is exploring the acquisition of land and the necessary easements to design a Ritter Canal Trail that would run from Decker Lane in West Valley City to Magna Copper Park.
“You don’t just go out there and set a centerline for the trail and build it,” Gilmore said. “There’s a lot of negotiation that goes into building trails before you can even design them.”
The preliminary work could take six months to a year as the county works with landowners.
The Ritter Canal Trail would be relatively short (4.5 miles), but it’s key. It would ultimately connect Magna to the Mid-Valley Trail and the Jordan River Parkway Trail.
Utah and Salt Lake Channel
The Utah and Salt Lake Canal Trail may be easier to complete. Eventually it would connect the Jordan Narrows in Bluffdale to Magna Copper Park. But as of now, funding would be enough to extend the trail to about 6200 South.
The district has already reached an easement agreement. Planners are in the design phase this year, considering centerline alignments and the intersection of major thoroughfares.
They plan to work in phases and complete the first section of the Utah and Salt Lake Canal Trail in 2023 or 2024.
The county is also using funds to pay for the final phase of Parley’s Trail, a popular east-west trail that connects to the Jordan River Parkway Trail. The plan is to build a large pedestrian bridge at 900 West and another that would cross the Jordan River.
Surrounding communities such as West Valley City and Herriman have worked with the county to tie the trails into their towns.
“We’re just really happy about it. One of our goals in West Valley is to really build more interconnectivity,” said Nancy Day, West Valley City Parks and Recreation Director. “I think it’s going to be really, really good for the residents of the west side of the valley.”
Expectations are also high in Herriman.
“Ultimately, we hope they’ll be able to connect the east side of the valley to the west side of the valley with trails,” said Anthony Teuscher, associate director of parks and events at Herriman. “You could have someone starting in Draper and hopefully it can lead over there on the west side to the Yellow Fork or Butterfield Canyon trails.”
County Council is seeking increased public engagement and expects residents to give their thoughts on the West Bank plan as it is unveiled over the next few months.
“Decisions made now will affect the quality of life for generations to come,” Snelgrove said. “We have to do it right here at the front. Because we will not be able to make improvements.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America Corps member and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Your donation of our RFA grant helps her write stories like this; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking Here.
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https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/03/23/this-is-long-overdue-more/ “It’s long overdue” – More trails are coming to the Oquirrh Mountains. Look where.