Time running out to weigh in on Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- If you play in the seven canyons of Salt Lake County, it's time to weigh in on their future. A year-long process to gather your ideas ends April 30.

Salt Lake County's population is expected to double in the next 30 years.

Over the past year, Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow surveyed the public on general values and specific strategies for our canyons. For example: What's a bigger concern, environmental impact or transportation? And what do you think about a mountain rail for Little Cottonwood Canyon?

The results will help revise the county master plan for our canyons for the next 20 years.

Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty is on the steering committee for Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow.

"We have this embarrassment of riches, of recreation opportunities here, and if we don't take care of those and use a little foresight, none of us are going to have them," Rafferty says.

Salt Lake County's canyons
  1. City Creek
  2. Emigration
  3. Red Butte
  4. Parley's
  5. Millcreek
  6. Big Cottonwood
  7. Little Cottonwood

The seven canyons of Salt Lake County offer one of the greatest urban sanctuaries in America, but without planning, Rafferty says we run the risk of irreparable damage from overuse.

Rafferty is particularly concerned about the future of the ski industry. He wants plans that will help the industry flourish in a way that protects our wilderness.

While Rafferty skis, he also hikes and mountain bikes and enjoys the pristine wilderness experience that many Utahns revel in on the Wasatch Front.

"I want to be able to know that the quality experience I enjoy right now is going to be the same, if not better, in the future" he says. "It's one of the few things we have in this life that we can control."

This is the third and final round of the survey. Many of the people who have already weighed in prioritize the need to protect our drinking water, wildlife and the wilderness experience.

More than 5,000 people have gotten involved and left more than 10,000 comments. The level of participation far exceeds any expectations by Envision Utah, which facilitates the process.

What is... Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow?
Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow is an opportunity for the public to provide input to an update of Salt Lake County's 1989 Wasatch Canyons Master Plan. This plan guides land-use, transportation options and other policies for City Creek, Emigration, Red Butte, Parleys, Millcreek, Big Cottonwood, and Little Cottonwood.

This survey will help update Salt Lake County's 1989 Wasatch Canyons Master Plan. Envision Utah planning director Gabe Epperson says many of the concerns remain the same but may need more urgent attention. For example, overcrowding in the canyons was deemed a problem 20 years ago, so that remains a priority.

"[We're] coming up with strategies ahead of time to help manage that so we don't love the canyons to death," Epperson says.

You'll see a lot of detail in the online survey, but here are a few highlights:

  • People are more concerned about development of private land in the canyons than increased regulation of private land.
  • People want expanded bus service. 70 percent like the idea of mountain rail in Little Cottonwood Canyon; 62 percent favor a parking fee at trail heads to fund canyon improvements.
  • People seem willing to pay, if fees are reasonable, and used wisely.

"Initial survey results from the past rounds, people [are] saying that a fee may be necessary. That, frankly, surprised me," Epperson says.

The survey period ends next Friday; it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. [CLICK HERE to take the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow survey]

The data gathered will go in a report delivered to Salt Lake County in June, with recommendations for the other governmental entities. Funding for any of the strategies is always a critical issue.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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Jed Boal


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