SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's top political leaders and representatives of several outdoors organizations in the state say they support a bill that would facilitate a federal-local land swap in order to extend the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
It's considered a step forward in the ultimate goal of stretching the Bonneville Shoreline Trail from Utah's northern border with Idaho down to central Utah.
Rep. John Curtis and Sen. Mitt Romney announced Tuesday they had reintroduced the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act in Congress. It's the duo's latest attempt in trying to secure federal land to extend the trail.
The bill calls for the release of 326 acres of wilderness within 20 "small locations" between Salt Lake and Utah counties that would "accommodate the advancement" of the trail within those counties.
In exchange, it would designate 326 acres of wilderness to preserve from land in Millcreek Canyon that was formerly owned by the Boy Scouts of America. The congressional leaders provided a map that shows where all of the parcels of land for the proposal are located.
The proposed legislation also would resolve a wilderness boundary issue in Birch Canyon in the Mount Naomi Wilderness Area in Cache County "to ensure the trail that runs parallel to the road can be fully utilized as a multiuse trail," according to the Curtis's Office.
It's considered the next step in an effort to eventually allow the trail to extend over 280 miles from Utah's Idaho border to Nephi in Juab County. The trail is currently over 100 miles in total length since it was conceived in the 1990s, stretching out a portion of the shoreline of prehistoric Lake Bonneville.
It's a popular trail system for hiking and mountain biking.
"This legislation balances creating new recreational opportunities with protecting the environment. With a rapidly increasing population, Salt Lake and Utah Counties are in need of more widely accessible opportunities to hike, bike and get outdoors," Curtis said, in a statement. "This legislation will do this in a responsible manner and help pave the way for all Utahns to enjoy this world-class trail."
The bill was first introduced last year but was never passed before the congressional session ended. The second attempt has the support of Utah's other members of Congress: Sen. Mike Lee, as well as Reps. Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart.
It was also backed by various state and local leaders, including Gov. Spencer Cox, Draper Mayor Troy Walker and Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn. Various other local government bodies also submitted letters in support of the bill.
"As you surely know, the trail is a decades-long project with both recreational and historical significance," Cox wrote, in a letter addressed to Curtis and Romney dated on Feb. 25. "It has the potential to be both a beautiful recreational asset for Utah residents and a tool for teaching us about ancient Lake Bonneville and Utah's fascinating geological history."
Several Utah outdoors groups and companies also submitted letters in support of the effort. That included Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee Chair John Knoblock, who pointed out that the committee has advocated for an expansion of the trail since it was created.
Other groups that voiced support for the bill included the Salt Lake Valley Trails Society, Outdoor Alliance, the Trust for Public Land, Trails Utah and International Mountain Bicycling Associations. Utah company Skullcandy and biking companies like Sram and Jenson USA also added letters in support.
"There are many obstacles in completing the entire envisioned trail which is still only about halfway complete. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act is important to overcome one of those obstacles by adjusting wilderness boundaries so that mountain bikes can use the entire trail as originally envisioned," Knoblock said, in a statement Tuesday. "The Bonneville Shoreline Trail is enjoyed by thousands of trail users every year and the mountain bike community is a large and important user group."