OREM — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will be removing and restoring unauthorized bike trails in the Timpanogos Wildlife Management Area this weekend, as the trails are causing damage to the wildlife habitats.
The wildlife management area is located just above Orem and provides healthy habitats for a variety of birds, deer, small mammals and other wildlife, according to a news release from the Division of Wildlife Resources. However, due to how close it is to the city, the management area has become permeated with unauthorized bike trails, causing significant impacts to habitat quality.
“This property is at the mouth of Provo Canyon and is very accessible to the public from neighborhoods,” Mark Farmer, with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, told KSL.com. “It has been used for years, and over those years we have had numerous user-created trails (crop up), primarily from the mountain biking community. They just ride a trail and it turns into a trail everybody else uses.”
Initially, there were only two in the wildlife management area, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the Great Western Trail, according to Farmer. Now there are dozens more.
The Division of Wildlife Resources, as a result, is going to conduct a trail-removal and restoration project in collaboration with local biking groups and the Utah Trails Alliance, according to the news release. Hand tools will be utilized by both biologists and volunteers to remove the unauthorized trails and identify the ones which will stay for public use.
"We’ve been working with the National Parks Service, the Trails Project and the Utah County Trails Alliance to get everyone together and identify a trail that makes sense and fits our needs,” Farmer said. “Now we’re to the point where we are going to start signing those, putting the information out there and trying to keep people on the authorized trails.”
Wildlife management areas are used to manage and protect wildlife, according to Farmer. They can allow other uses of the land as long as they don’t interfere with the primary purpose.
“We know there are lots of people recreating on there and we can’t really just say ‘no trespassing'’” Farmer said. “So we’re trying to manage different uses so everyone is happy, or at least somewhat happy.”
The project, which will see its second day of work this Saturday, is seeking to do some signing and trail rerouting to cut off big switchbacks. “We’ll be signing the trails to keep people from using them,” Farmer added. “We’ll (also) be digging up the trails and putting rocks and branches and stuff on them. And then if we keep people off the trail, the grass will grow in and close it for us.”
If they can reduce traffic on the trails, the plants will grow in on their own, according to Farmer. In the fall they will do more digging and actually plant new seeds to get plants growing and help the land heal.
“The Utah Trails Alliance is a new group that has just been formed,” Farmer said about the organization motivating the restoration. “It’s important to get all the different users together to share information, so anyone interested can look at their Facebook page, Utah Trails Alliance. People can find out when these work days are and get information about the trails.”
This restoration project is one of many that the Utah Trails Alliance will be undertaking this year, from Lehi all the way to Payson, according to Farmer. The project in Orem is just the beginning, and once their work is done they will move on to other sensitive areas further south.