A conservation group opposing widespread commercialization of Salt Lake County's canyons fears the Utah ski industry is mounting a campaign to pack public hearings on the direction and scale of future canyon development.
Meanwhile, the Park City Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday confirmed plans to bus Park City residents to the Salt Lake County-sponsored hearings.Those hearings, scheduled for Wednesday and Monday, are intended to gather public input from local residents on a 130-plus page book of issues, charts and maps outlining scenarios and options for future canyon development.
The hearings are to be held Wednesday at Olympus Junior High, 2217 E. 48th South, and Monday in the Commission Chambers of the Salt Lake County Government Center, 2001 S. State. Both are scheduled from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The options document is not a master plan, but is one of the steps in the county's year-long effort to prepare such a plan guiding the allocation of future residential, commercial and recreational uses in seven major canyons.
The planning efforts are focusing mainly on Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, but will also affect City Creek, Red Butte, Emigration, Parleys and Millcreek canyons. The final version of the canyon master plan is not likely to be adopted by the Salt Lake County Commission until next year.
But Alexis Kelner, a co-founder of the Citizen's Committee to Save our Canyons, says unless county residents are willing to appear and comment on the options document, the ski industry and other business interests will dominate the hearings.
"Salt Lake County residents have the choice and the right to decide what our canyons will be," Kelner said. "If we don't speak out, someone else will make those decisions."
Kelner said Park City has the most to gain from the so-called Ski Interconnect, a proposal to link Big and Little Cottonwood canyon ski resorts with Park City resorts through a series of trails and ski lifts.
Save Our Canyons opposes the interconnect proposal.
"Park City wants to use its lodging for people who will use other ski areas on the Interconnect," Kelner said. "That would hurt downtown Salt Lake City's lodging industry, and would hurt the canyons.
The canyon development issue pits the ski industry and other canyon landowners against conservationists like Save Our Canyons. The conservationists support very limited future canyon development. The ski industry wants the right to future expansion.
Both sides are expected to be well represented at the public hearings, said County senior planner Cal Schneller, director of the master plan project. But the county is hoping to "reach out to the average people, those who go hiking in the canyons. They are the kind of people we really need comments from," Schneller said.
Information and options document copies are available from the county planning office at N3700 in the county government complex.
Those who want to comment on the document should attend the Wednesday hearing when 1,200 public seats will be available. Only 200 seats will be available Monday.