‘It’s finally here’: Parley’s Trail is now complete with complicated stretch solved

Sep 29, 2023, 6:19 AM

Hand cyclists pedal across a bridge over the Jordan River section of Parley's Trail in West Valley ...

Hand cyclists pedal across a bridge over the Jordan River section of Parley's Trail in West Valley City on Thursday. The primarily elevated section of Parley's Trail, from 900 West to Jordan River Parkway, is complete and officially open to the public. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY — As a large chunk of the Parley’s Trail opened in 2017, anyone who used what was then about an 8-mile path from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to 900 West quickly realized that it was quite a hassle to reach the nearby Jordan River Parkway Trail.

This final section is only a fraction of the entire route, but those walking, biking or using a wheelchair were required to cross on- and off-ramps by an especially busy section of state Route 201, as well as the large intersections at 900 West and 2100 South, before they could continue forward toward a connection to the popular river trail. It posed safety concerns along with the inconvenience.

“When we got there and I saw what trail users were expected to do, I (was) like, ‘We can’t do that. We have to do something different,'” said Juan Arce-Larreta, chairman of volunteer organization Parleys Rails, Trails and Tunnels, explaining his first time witnessing this section of the trail.

By then, planning was already underway on how to finish the trail, a project that had started more than two decades ago. After several more years of planning, which ended up almost as difficult to maneuver around as the journey between the two trails, the final segment of the trail is now finally open — free of the challenge at 900 West.

Salt Lake County leaders, as well as representatives of cities along the trail and others, gathered by one of two new bridges along the final stretch of the trail Thursday morning to celebrate the completion.

“It’s finally here,” said Walt Gilmore, associate director of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, who has also been attached to the project since about the beginning. “The completion … has been the vision and the dream for so many people for so many years.”

Solving one last Parley’s Trail hurdle

Building Parley’s Trail wasn’t an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. Those behind the project say it required funding, clearance and coordination between federal, state, county, municipal and even private landowners to build a trail that goes through four different cities.

Despite these hurdles, project leaders were able to open large segments in pieces by 2017. It was about this same time that planners and project leaders also began to shift their focus over to their last challenge, the trail’s temporary terminus at 900 West in South Salt Lake.

Knowing the goal was to extend it to the Jordan River Parkway Trail, Arce-Larreta said he and others ventured out to a location in West Valley City and looked for areas where the trail could go next.

“We looked east and there was some property there,” he said.

What they found was a narrow gap between state Route 201 and UTA’s TRAX line in the area, from 900 West to the Jordan River. Salt Lake County planners found it primarily belonged to either UTA or the Utah Department of Transportation.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Trails and Tunnels Chairman Juan Arce-Larreta walk across a bridge over the Jordan River section of Parleys Trail in West Valley on Thursday. The primarily elevated section of Parleys Trail, from 900 West to Jordan River Parkway, is complete and officially open to the public. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

They took the idea to UDOT, where the agency helped with easements and a feasibility study. All of the involved agencies pieced together a plan calling for a trail between one bridge over 900 West and another over the Jordan River to complete the pathway.

Andrea Sorensen, project manager for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, said the extension only adds about a quarter of a mile, but the bridges and additional coordination upped the cost of the final segment. It ended up at around $6.5 million to complete, which was covered by many various sources, according to Gilmore and Arce-Larreta.

Perhaps the only easy part of it all is that the various agencies and government entities agreed on the project.

“Everybody was on board with the trail,” Sorensen said. “Everyone wanted the trail done.”

Gilmore adds that he’s “very proud” of how the final section came out to complete the trail.

Parleys piece in a much larger puzzle

Work on the Parley’s Trail is not over. The next steps are to enhance it by adding features like benches, bike maintenance stations, dog hydration facilities or other ideas brought to the county, its cities or to the Parleys Rails, Trails and Tunnels, Arce-Larreta said.

However, he and others who attended Thursday’s ceremony are also excited about what it means for active transportation.

Utah is looking to build more trails like this as a part of a connecting system that Gov. Spencer Cox unveiled last year. The Utah Legislature set aside $90 million as an initial investment earlier this year, along with a new fund that can collect up to $45 million every fiscal year for projects.

A cyclist pedals across a bridge over the Jordan River section of Parleys Trail in West Valley City on Thursday. Comprised of two elevated bridges, across 900 West and over the Jordan River, the new section is referred to as “Bridging the Gap: Connecting Communities.” (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

The goal is to connect communities using different forms of transportation. The Parley’s Trail completion factors into this because it links up to the Jordan River Parkway Trail, which runs from Davis County to Utah County via Salt Lake County.

West Valley City Mayor Karen Lang pointed out that people can now go from Parleys Canyon to about 7200 West with the help of the new trail connection. The river trail also connects to several other pathways that link up the Wasatch Front.

Some of these are now expanding out to areas outside of the region as the statewide connection slowly forms.

“This is a key piece to what can be a much bigger and more incredible project,” Arce-Larreta said, of Parley’s Trail. “That intrigues me.”

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‘It’s finally here’: Parley’s Trail is now complete with complicated stretch solved