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Murdock Canal Trail project finally moving forward

PROVO — It's been 14 years since Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson first started working on the Murdock Canal Trail project.

This week, he and the two other county commissioners signed a municipal interlocal agreement for the project, and Ellertson is optimistic it will move forward shortly.

"I can sense the excitement among those who know it is coming," Ellertson said. "It will be a great addition to the valley."

Private owners of the canal are spending about $150 million to enclose it, which will be safer for residents and will stop evaporation of the water, Ellertson said.

After the canal is covered, the county and the seven cities the canal goes through will split the $16 million bill for the trail to go over the top, Ellertson said. Those cities include Orem, Lindon, Pleasant Grove, Cedar Hills, American Fork, Highland and Lehi.

Utah County will pay about 35 percent of the trail cost, and the cities will split the rest, depending on population and trail length in their city, Ellertson said. The federal government is allocating about $10 million for the trail, as well, he said.

So far, only Highland seems to be a bit iffy on whether it will OK the project, but Ellertson believes the rest of the cities will sign the agreement by the end of this month. Highland will hold a public meeting Feb. 25 to discuss the trail, and the mayor and council members will make a decision about it in their following city meeting.

Utah County Commissioner Steve White said the trail will be the "central spine" of the trail system in Utah County, as it will meet up with the Provo River trail that runs to Utah Lake.

Ellertson said in the next five to 10 years, he hopes the trail will run from Jordan River Parkway down to the Provo River trail, then around the shoreline of Utah Lake and back to Jordan River Parkway. He said such a trail would give a great tour of the valley for those wishing to bike, run, walk or even horseback ride along it.

For this specific project, the trail will run along the top of the Murdock canal from slightly east of I-15 near state Route 92 down to Provo River Parkway. The county is hoping to then join it with Jordan River Parkway and already has been working on gaining right-of-way access to the Utah Lake shore.