Salt Lake City continues its pause on new trail system

Sep 14, 2021, 3:00 PM | Updated: 9:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City announced it would continue to hold off any new development on its trail system plan Tuesday, as city leaders work to address concerns about how to meet a growing demand for recreation and conservation.

There are few areas in the country that boast so much open land so close to the capital city.

The foothills is currently home to more than 65 miles of trails, according to city officials, and many more miles are in the current plan.

“These foothill trails are our city’s most beautiful and admired place,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall during a press conference near the start of the trails.

(Matt Rascon, KSL TV) (Matt Rascon, KSL TV)

Even before 2020, Salt Lake City said they saw an increase in the number of people heading out to enjoy the outdoors. And then, the pandemic hit and “just put it exponentially higher,” according to Tyler Fonarow, the city’s trail projects specialist.

“We’re not just building trails, but we’re building trail culture because the people have to understand, we’re doing this together to conserve the lands,” Fonarow said. “To balance recreation and conservation.”

From 2016 to 2019, Fonarow said the city gathered information to grow its current trail system.

In 2020, they attempted to meet a growing demand for outdoor recreation with a new trail system proposal in the foothills that would add 65+ miles of paths.

The city approved the plan last year and phase one was underway when the city was hit with concerns about what the new plan would mean for conservation and sustainability.

“One of our core concerns was the sustainability of these trails, which seem to be compromised by weather events as we’re seeing,” said Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons. “But also the intensity of the trail network.”

Fisher acknowledged the growing population has added to the urgency for updates, calling the pandemic “the great outdoor awakening.” But, he said, “responsibility comes with that, right?”

Fisher argued the city’s plan to separate trails for mountain bikers and hikers would ensure that “you end up with twice as much of the impact on the trails.”

“When you have people very intensively using the trail system, it displaces the wildlife that people are coming up her to see,” he said. “We’re not making more mountains.”

The response to the trail development prompted the city to pause its work and reach out for feedback from the community, various conservation groups and from tribal leaders who hold some parts of the land sacred.

“Their historical accounts and input on this land is invaluable,” Mayor Mendenhall said of the relationships they were building with tribal leaders.

The foothills remain a highlight of Salt Lake City. Their proximity and accessibility bring countless bikers and hikers to the land each year, but the dilemma remains for the city and others to work to find a balanced way forward.

“What do you value about this place and what’s your vision going forward? And try to temper your behavior to support that vision rather than take away from it,” Fisher said.

“A pathway forward that is more collaborative and communicative is possible for us. We are already on that pathway,” Mayor Mendenhall said.

The mayor said the pause on the trail system would continue until June 2022, when they expect to have gathered the information and feedback they need to move forward with an updated plan.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Karah Brackin

Group considers master plan for trail systems in three canyons

What do the next several years look like for trail usage and the health of the ecosystem? That’s what the Tri-Canyon Trails Master Plan will lay out with input from the public.
14 hours ago
(KSL TV)...
Josh Ellis

Roy High teacher named ‘Most Valuable Educator’ by Utah Jazz, Instructure

KSL TV has teamed up with the Utah Jazz and Instructure to honor some of Utah's "Most Valuable Educators" this season.
14 hours ago
Bail has been revoked for a woman charged with murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter after...
Pat Reavy

Utah woman accused of killing daughter was making plans to flee country, prosecutors say

A judge has revoked bail for a woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter after prosecutors say the woman was making arrangements while in jail to try to flee the country.
14 hours ago
FILE: Brothers Cody Dunham, left, and William Dunham load a television into their car after Best Bu...
Tamara Vaifanua

February deals ahead of Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day

From Valentine's Day to Presidents Day and the Super Bowl, February is shaping up as a month packed with sales and deals.
14 hours ago
(FILE) Inside the new Utah State Prison located in Salt Lake City. (KSL-TV)...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Utah state prisons on lockdown after three assaults against officers

Two Utah state prison facilities were placed on lockdown Sunday evening after three corrections officers were injured in the last two weeks. 
2 days ago
Handcuffs in a jail cell FILE PHOTO (Ravell Call/Deseret News)...
Pat Reavy

7 arrested in drug trafficking investigation in Utah and Salt Lake counties

Utah County law enforcers served search warrants on four homes simultaneously last week, resulting in the arrests of seven people and the seizure of multiple pounds of meth and heroin.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Salt Lake City continues its pause on new trail system