I understand that a small group of cross country ski enthusiasts from U.S. Skiing wants the Olympics to "leave a legacy" in our Little Dell Canyon. And the Olympic Committee wants to use Little Dell instead of Mountain Dell Golf Course, so they won't have to "restore" the site they use.
That's fancy talk that simply means that they want to use something that doesn't belong to them and don't want to clean up after themselves. Instead, they are seeking to tear up a section of native riparian habitat that is all too rare in Utah.They want to cut up the area with trails and parking lots and stadiums and the like. They wish to use it heavily for a couple of weeks during a time of year when it is an important part of very small and critical winter range for deer and elk. And they wish to leave us with an Olympic-sized "residue."
Watershed protection, wildlife viewing opportunities, water quality, natural vegetation, year-long habitat for deer and elk and moose, critical winter range for wildlife, cutthroat trout, hiking opportunities that are off the beaten path.
These natural wonders are almost impossible for man to create. They were a long time developing naturally; and they can be destroyed almost overnight. Not just by construction activities and temporary sporting events, but also by the development of permanent facilities that attract ever-larger crowds.
Salt Lake City has shown remarkable foresight in preserving Parleys Canyon and Little Dell Canyon. It has tenaciously pursued a non-development policy for decades. We now have at our doorsteps a protected water supply and a "nature park" that will support a modest amount of human use. Its value to our community is significant. Its natural features are a part of our canyon experience, even for those who merely drive I-80 to Park City.
We should not forget how development has changed the landscape between Parleys Summit and Park City. Little Dell Canyon is owned largely by the city, and it does not need to succumb to the clamor of those who would develop it.
A temporary use, even with an attempt at "restoration," will destroy much of the natural features of the canyon bottom. A permanent facility, if it lies largely unused, will be a waste of money and management effort and will add to the long-term burden on law enforcement.
If a permanent facility continues to be used regularly, it will attract crowds that will eventually degrade the natural features of the area and permanently reduce this critical winter wildlife habitat.
The development of Little Dell and the degradation of its natural environment is not an appropriate Olympic "legacy." This is just "littering" on an Olympic scale.
David L. Rasmussen
Salt Lake City