The scenery is as gentle as the slope. Thirty miles of rural landscape - that's what mountain bikers, equestrians, and those who like to walk will enjoy when Utah's first converted rail trail opens on Saturday, Oct. 3.
They'll traverse through open fields, canyons and small towns; past reservoirs and farms. Sometimes they'll be close to the highway, but for the most part, the sound of birds will triumph over the sound of trucks. In the winter, cross-country skiers will glide along the same smooth path.Gone are the rails and tracks of the Union Pacific. They've been removed by a local firm, A & K Railroad Materials; sold for recycling; and replaced, thanks in large part to the Utah National Guard, with a trail mix of rocky road base and seven inches of top soil.
The Summit County trail begins in Prospector Square in Park City and and ends at Echo Reservoir, north of Coalville.
The strolling, horse riding, biking public is invited to the grand opening festivities which begin at 9 a.m. at Prospector Square Hotel in Park City, with a community breakfast , ceremony, bicycle brigade, volksmarch, and horseback ride.
The bicycle riders will leave Park City 10:30 a.m. The walkers (volksmarch), with nature and history guides leading the way, will leave from Wanship at 11:30 a.m. Horseback rides, starting from and ending at Park City, begin at 1 p.m. A free shuttle will bring walkers and cyclists and their bikes back to Park City or Blue Sage (Wanship) from various points along the trail.
From noon to 5 p.m. there will be a barbecue at Blue Sage in Wanship.
The state division of Parks and Recreation manages the trail. However Terry Green, planning coordinator is the first to give credit to Park City and Summit County for the trail's inception. Jennifer Harrington, Myles Rademan and dozens more "really got into railroad revitalization," he says. "We were provided a lot of legal assistance and political backing." The Utah legislature gave several grants, one for $100,000.
The Summit County trail is the first of it's kind in Utah. And the Summit County Land Trust, which helped with the acquisition of the land, is the first land trust in the state, dedicated to conserving open spaces (with or without recreational potential) in every county, until such time as other land trusts are established.
Across the nation, there are more than over 500 such trails, with an additional several hundred in the planning stages. With the help of the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., 44 states have converted rail lines into recreational use. Wisconsin has 751 miles of rail trails, more than any other state.
"Eventually, everyone would like to have a smoother surface," says Des Barker, Park City Chamber of Commerce. In some other states rail trails are paved and accessible to wheelchairs, roller blades and street bikes. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in any states, with the possible exception of snowmobiles in the winter. While there will be funds available to hire a trail manager beginning in October, Barker doesn't foresee funds for paving the Summit County rail trail in the near future.