Mountain Accord tackles future of Wasatch Mountains

Utah Land

SALT LAKE CITY — A light-rail system may someday connect the Salt Lake Valley to Park City, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail will be completed and groups will work furiously to repair streams that are broken from pollution.

Against this backdrop, the economy of the central Wasatch canyons will be a vibrant mainstay of the state’s overall fiscal health, generating millions from repeat customers who revel in the mountainous playground.

A group of representatives from 20 vastly different backgrounds and interests were meeting Monday in an attempt to hammer out a future for the mountains between I-80 and Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The Mountain Accord, a collaborative planning process attempting to chart that future for the mountains, is in its first stages of landing on a scenario of options that will best balance the economy, transportation, recreation and environmental challenges facing the area.

“Those scenarios by their very nature are going to be mutually inconsistent,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, co-chairman of the executive committee.

Afterward, McAdams said the process is tough, but the goals are possible to achieve.

“I am really encouraged that we have stakeholders across the spectrum who all recognize that what we have one the central Wasatch is important and worth preserving,” he said.

Groups centered on those four broad topics and crafted scenarios that would singularly promote that aspect of the canyons.

Under the recreation and environment umbrella, the “ideal” future envisions:

  • Land trades to complete the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
  • No net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Identification and protection of key wildlife corridors.
  • Restoration of impaired streams and ecosystems.
  • Placing lands in special management status to protect against future development.

The economy and transportation components contemplate a future that:

  • Invests in transit solutions that connect the valley with the mountains and Park City.
  • Pursues development at existing and new transit hubs, emphasizing lodging accommodations and mixed-use development.
  • Creates mountain connection via rail from Wasatch Front to Wasatch Back, or alternately no mountain connection.
  • Develops rail from Sandy to Little and Big Cottonwood canyons.

Reaching consensus has been a difficult challenge for groups as diverse as the Utah Transit Authority, Outdoor Industry Association, the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Save Our Canyons.

So far in the planning process, an outreach from the Mountain Accord resulted in 932 comments and areas of sharp disagreement from the public.

Residents were significantly concerned about protection of private property rights but also protection of the environment. They felt strongly that there be a “connect” between the Wasatch Front and the Wasatch Back and just as strongly that there not be such a merger.

Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, said a more thorough outreach from late November to January is not likely to bridge those differences.

“The idea is that we find some way through these issues that have both support for and against, and I don’t see that changing in any of the public comment periods going forward,” Fisher added.

Options to improve transportation in the region were a sticking point for executive committee members Monday, including year-round automobile access to Guardsman’s Pass — which brought robust discussion from Park City, Ski Utah and Salt Lake City officials on the potential ramifications.

 

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This article was written by Amy Joi O’Donoghue for KSL.com