SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management Salt Lake Field Office is considering a potential development that could bring more than 50 miles of new trails in parts of three counties.
“We’re kind of in this unique position where we manage a lot of lands that are very close to urban areas,” said BLM Salt Lake Field Office Acting Assistant Field Manager Todd Marks. “When people think BLM lands they think remote and taking a long time to get to but we’ve got a lot of lands within these three areas that are just in peoples backdoors and providing developed recreation opportunities for them is super exciting.”
If implemented, the proposal would increase recreation opportunities in Tooele, Utah and Salt Lake Counties while improving public land access.
“There’s a lot of new development out in all three of those counties and people want to have trails in their backyards and nearby that they can get to,” said BLM Salt Lake Field Office Outdoor Recreation Planner Roxanne Tea.
The proposal would include up to 25 miles of new, single-track trails within the Lake Mountains in Utah County, up to 15 miles of trails within the North Oquirrh Management Area (NOMA) in Tooele County, and up to 15 miles of trails in Rose and Yellow Fork Canyons in Salt Lake County.
“They (BLM) are also proposing significant infrastructure upgrades,” said Co-Founder of the Salt Lake Valley Trails Society Kevin Dwyer. “The trails and everything are rather minor development as compared to the parking and the restroom infrastructure and other types of things that are needed at the trailheads because that’s where a lot of the action and impact takes place.”
Dwyer also says that in 2020, there has been a steady increase of mountain bike retail sales in the area which could translate to at least a ten percent increase in ridership within just two years in the Salt Lake area.
“We are seeing trail counters that monitor trail use, exceeding 100 percent growth,” said Dwyer.
With so many trails and easy-to-access outdoor recreation opportunities on the east side of Interstate 15, Dwyer believes these three locations are perfect for the growing communities.
“Any place that we can get more trail opportunities over on the west side that’s a huge boom to those communities over there who don’t have as much access as the east side communities,” said Dwyer.
While these conversations between counties and the Bureau of Land Management have been happening for a few years now, things have been put into motion due to some heavy lifting by local groups.
“It will expedite a lot of needed trail projects,” said Executive Director of Trails Utah Sarah Bennett. “If the pandemic has shown us anything it’s that quick access to open space and trails has never been more popular.”
The proposal is still a fair amount of time away from reality. The process right now is in the public comment stage, where the public is invited to share their thoughts about the project.
“Right now what we’re looking from the general public is for their public participation, we want comments from them if we’ve missed analyzing anything in the environmental assessment,” said Tea.
After public comment, there are still a few steps prior to counties putting forth their own individual master trail plans for these projects.
“You know, it’s feasible that we could start to see some development next year,” said Marks. “But really within the next couple of years we could really see some movement through this project.”