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Herriman lawsuit and trail closure sparks community uproar

Oct 24, 2023, 6:07 PM | Updated: 6:17 pm

Herriman City's signage indicates the permanent closure of Eric's Trail. Drea Dettmers, change.org)...

Herriman City's signage indicates the permanent closure of Eric's Trail. Drea Dettmers, change.org)

HERRIMAN — Herriman City announced the permanent closure of a popular community trail on Friday, Oct. 20, citing no specific reason. In turn, community speculation and social noise ramped up, including a petition.

The lawsuit

It was discovered that there had been a lawsuit dating back to April of 2022, filed by local lawyer and Herriman resident, Brent Gordon. The lawsuit lists 12 other neighbors nearby as plaintiffs in the case, and an additional plaintiff as “John and Jane Does” who it says also own property affected.

Brent Gordon, as seen on his on his law firm’s website. (Parke Gordon Law)

The lawsuit states that Herriman City did not properly obtain a conditional use permit before building trails, and violated its own city ordinances that prohibit additions that negatively impact the aesthetic, economic, and privacy interest of residents.

It added that the trails violate another ordinance which prohibits “any and all uses of property on slopes greater than 30 percent.”

“Herriman City has unlawfully built trails without obtaining a conditional use permit and in violation of city ordinances on a relatively barren hill used daily by sometimes hundreds of hikers and mountain bikers on property that is adjacent to, within feet of, and overlooks Plaintiffs’ back yards,” documents said.

The lawsuit highlights that when the trail was built “sometime prior to 2015”, it was built on what it says was partly private property and partly city property.

A diagram in Exhibit A, section 61 of the Gordon et al Herriman lawsuit. (Salt Lake County)

A diagram in Exhibit A, section 61 of the Gordon et al Herriman lawsuit. The section marked “Old Alignment on City Property” is the portion of the trail that is now closed. (Salt Lake County)

The suit goes on to give a history of the back and forth, including Herriman City’s attempts to reroute the trails and buy the property.

Public comments

The announcement caused an outburst of social media posts and comments from community members across multiple platforms.

In contradiction to the lawsuit claims, many of on social platforms say the property was public when the trail was built.

“It is important to note that this trail existed long before the homes were built in this area,” a community member who reviewed the lawsuit, Nathan Hanson said. “The trail at one point did cover private property but it was fixed by the city and since then the trial is 100% on city property. The homeowner/lawyer, Brent Gordon, found that the trail was never permitted properly by the city and was able to win the lawsuit based on that fact.”

Social comments also included frustration about the lack of community input into the decision made.

“I’d like to know what kind of public input this was given and perhaps the real reason this is being closed,” said one commenter, Kristyn Mittelstaedt. “Settling because of one entitled person doesn’t sit well with me. Community consideration and input is sorely lacking. I run this trail often and to claim revegetation while leaving it at that is wrong. I believe there should be a meeting to hear all involved not just the one person ruining it for the whole.”

A community petition was then established on Monday, that had 239 signatures at press time.

Comments from representatives and Gordon himself

One Herriman City Council Member, Steven Shields, responded to comments in a private group, suggesting the trail had been closed because is was haunted:

This is hilarious reading. However, almost none of the comments have anything to do with reality. there was some litigation filed by a resident who had some issues with trails and their locations. As part of an effort to resolve the issue and save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in ongoing legal fees a compromise was reached where the closing of this small section of the trail and revegetation was agreed to. The litigant paid for the revegetation. Of course there are more details, but in the interest of discretion, we will leave it at that. There is nothin sketchy or mysterious, or nefarious…but some of you folks could have a career writing for the national enquirer.

Gordon then commented in a Herriman Trails group with the following:

I’m happy to chat with anyone about the trail or the litigation and provide you with all the docs you want. To be clear, the issue predated the current city leadership so I don’t think people should be upset with the current city leaders. And, as mentioned by others, I was the driving force behind the closure so I am happy to field questions.
By way of background, the trail was initially constructed on both city and private property (that I now own) without permission. The city immediately shut it down, put up no trespassing signs, put up a trail closed sign, and made FB posts informing people it was closed. It was later reopened without a conditional use permit, public hearing, or approval by the HCPC in violation of Herriman’s land use ordinances. So, the city said it would close it down again and re-route the trail. The city did re-route the trail but didn’t get around to closing it down before city leadership was changed.
The allegations in the lawsuit I filed were mostly straight from docs I obtained from the city via a GRAMA request prior to filing the lawsuit. I later learned more information throughout the course of litigation through formal discovery regarding the development of trails. I have reviewed thousands of city, county, state, and federal docs that govern or relate to Herriman trails. Anyone who suggests that the city has a viable legal basis to reopen the trail is simply wrong. Instead, I agree with city leaders who have suggested that the trail had a complex history. With that in mind, this was a case that needed to be settled and we did so in what I think was an amicable way. I agreed to pay the city for attorneys fees and to revegetate the trail.
Herriman City stated in its release that they are working to explore options for expanding the trail system, including the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

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Herriman lawsuit and trail closure sparks community uproar