As Salt Lake Valley development moves ever farther west, the Salt Lake County Trails Advisory Board hopes to see room left for the future development of trails along the west bench.
At today's meeting of the Salt Lake County Council of Governments, the trails board will ask the city mayors who make up the COG to get behind their efforts to start planning for trails now.
"With plans for the development of the Mountain View Corridor well under way, and with more neighborhoods being added to our communities every day, if we don't take the time now to identify where we want to put things like parks and trails, we are going to lose those opportunities," the board wrote in a letter to the COG.
A trail system is only as good as its planning, proponents say. If a trail is built through one area or city but isn't well-planned with nearby areas, the trail is as useless as a dead-end road.
"The truth is, the west side is pretty much an open, clean slate right now, so (we hope to) identify these areas early, at least putting the seeds there so that whoever wanted to develop them later, since we've made this identification, it would improve their ability to be developed," trails board chairman Greg Schulz said.
The board's aim is to receive a letter of support from the COG, an association of city governments from throughout Salt Lake County, calling for a trails study to be carried out. That support, the board hopes, will be influential as the county seeks state funding for the study.
The study, Schulz said, would give future planners and developers an idea of where trails should go and will hopefully leave the needed space open.
One of the COG members whose city is likely to see ever-increasing development in its west-bench areas is West Jordan Mayor Bryan Holladay, who said the COG needs to be involved in ensuring trails are part of the west-side development thought process.
"We've got to do all that we can to not only preserve what we have but try to build some more," Holladay said.
He said trail planning, like planning for roads and other infrastructure, needs to be done at small and large levels, with subdivision developers working together so trails can connect neighborhood to neighborhood and also city and county leaders working to keep trails consistent valleywide.
Schulz said the ultimate responsibility for a workable west-side trail system will rest on many shoulders, including developers, local governments, Kennecott Land and the U.S. Army and Camp Williams, all of which are expected to play a role in upcoming west-side development.
Kennecott Land is a sister company of Kennecott Utah Copper, the company that has for decades been mining the Oquirrh Mountains. Now that mining operations are winding down, Kennecott Land is working to decide just how its vast land holdings — about 93,000 acres along the Oquirrh foothills — should be developed.
Schulz said ultimate goals could span county lines, as Tooele County is working on four or five connector trails that could one day be connected to Salt Lake County trails, meaning hikers and bikers could go from Salt Lake County to Tooele over the Oquirrhs.
Such intercounty planning resulted in the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Trail, which runs 45 miles from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake.