PARK CITY — Overcrowding at Summit County trailheads is inconveniencing locals and even threatening safety, county officials say. So, they're moving to more aggressively enforce parking restrictions in trouble spots.
The trailheads at Bear Hollow's Rob's Trail and Summit Park, specifically, require more attention, Summit County Councilman Glenn Wright told KSL.com Wednesday.
"We've tried to (take) kind of a kinder, gentler approach to it up until now," Wright said, “tried to warn people to obey the rules, respect their neighbors. But it hasn't worked. It's come to a head to the point where we're going to have to put in some mandatory 'no parking' and towing operations in that area to discourage people from overcrowding."
Wright said problems at Rob's Trail have included speeding along the road, people walking across neighbors' yards, animals defecating in the yards, and even late-night parties by the side of the road. But the issues at Summit Park are even more serious, he said, because of the public safety implications.
"In Summit Park, the roads are pretty narrow," Wright said. "If you've ever driven in Summit Park, if you don't know your way around there, it's easy to get lost and drive around in circles.
"Particularly during fire season, we're really concerned about crowds of people getting trapped in there should a fire occur."
The trailheads are not technically in Park City and are, therefore, in the jurisdiction of the Summit County Sheriff's Office. Wright said the sheriff's office is already stepping up enforcement at the trailheads, but the deputies are stretched too thin to be a consistent presence.
The solution? Wright said the county plans to enhance the authorities for the Snyderville Basin Recreation District, which administers the trails, so its employees can write tickets and call tow trucks for illegally parked vehicles.
That will require a change in county code, Wright said, which could happen as soon as next week's council meeting.
Matt Wagoner, trails and open space manager for the Basin Recreation District, said the organization will hire a new enforcement officer who handles parking and other issues of etiquette along the trails. He said there will be a period of public education before more drastic measures go into effect.
"It's not exclusively a parking issue," Wagoner said. "There are certain things that we can all do as a community, as a group of trail users, to behave better at trailheads. It's simple things like carpooling, like coming to trails at off times and off-hours, finding new trailheads that aren't so popular, trying out new areas. So I think there's a lot of things that we can do to mitigate the impacts that have resulted in this parking issue."
Wagoner and Wright both said the COVID-19 pandemic has made outdoor recreation more popular and appealing than ever, drawing even more people to the county's famous trails.
"I think it's really important that trail users have some respect for the neighborhoods they're dealing with," Wright said. "We have a lot of visitors from all over the county, and actually from all over the Wasatch Front. I use it myself. I've been up in both of these areas hiking, and I've seen firsthand some of the abuses that are occurring. It's just a matter of being courteous to your neighbors."