<strong>This new feature makes trail usage more accessible and safer for the public.</strong> – Draper Mayor Darrell Smith
DRAPER — A new tunnel opened Monday that gives hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders a connection between Corner Canyon trails and the Traverse Ridge Open Space area without having to cross the busy Traverse Ridge Road highway.
City and county bonds played a part in the larger project. Draper residents will have the chance to vote in June whether to approve an additional recreation bond, and Salt Lake County has a working group scheduled to meet Tuesday as part of a process to determine whether the county will put a recreation bond on the November ballot.
Salt Lake County paid $2.75 million for the land used to build the tunnel and connect 1,000 acres of open space in Corner Canyon to 633 acres in Little Valley. Draper now owns the entire trails area with the county controlling a conservation easement to protect the land from future development.
"This new feature makes trail usage more accessible and safer for the public," said Draper Mayor Darrell Smith. He and County Mayor Peter Corroon were part of a small group that formally opened the tunnel Monday.
The stretch of trail leading to either side of the tunnel has been named "Ann's Trail" in honor of Ann Parr, a member of the Draper Trails Committee and Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Board.
Corroon said preserving open space in the county improves residents' quality of life. "Salt Lake County is committed to regional planning."
Salt Lake County Councilman Randy Horiuchi said the area dwarfs the 633-acre Dimple Dell Regional Park in Sandy and will continue to grow in popularity.
"We don't want our new underground tunnel to be a secret," Smith said.
The county approved a $48 million bond in 2006 with a significant portion being spent to preserve open space.
Jenny Wilson was a member of the County Council when the idea of expanding the open space in Draper was on the drawing board. Making the open space and trail systems work was "confusing" at first, but using a tunnel to link the two areas — bisected by an increasingly busy highway — helped make the concept work.
"The open spaces fund has been the best use of taxpayer money I've seen," Wilson said.
Draper City Councilman William Rappleye said paying to preserve the open space has a specific purpose. "It's making useful space not having space set aside to look at," he said.
Draper City Councilman Troy Walker said much of the trail system in the area was cut by Eagle Scout candidates, including his son Dallas. "More than 70 people helped on that project," he said. "In his Scout troop alone I think seven scouts did their projects up here." Rappleye was among the first to ride his mountain bike through the tunnel after it was officially opened Monday.
Preserving open space comes at a cost, and whether to make additional expenditures are on the agendas with both partners in the Little Valley Trail and tunnel project.
Two weeks ago, the Draper City Council unanimously voted to put a recreation bond proposal on the June primary election ballot. The proposal is for a 20-year bond of up to $29 million.
Salt Lake County is also considering a parks bond of up to $110 million that would be used for maintenance needs at parks and other recreation facilities across the county. A bond could also be used to pay for some new construction on unfinished segments of the Jordan River Parkway Trail and for recreation facilities in growth areas in the southwest part of the county.
Members of the County Council took a field trip one week ago to look at projects the bond would be used for, and a working group that includes elected officials and county staff is scheduled to meet today at 1 p.m. to update their findings before making a recommendation about whether the bond proposal should go to voters in November.