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Draper, Salt Lake County celebrate conservation of 4,500 acres

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The trail system at the Little Valley Trailhead on Traverse Ridge Road in Draper that is part of a 2,100-acre conservation easement of critical land that had been originally slated for development in Draper on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. Draper city and Salt Lake County officials met at the trailhead to commemorate the 2017 signing of the easement. Draper has over 100 miles of trails and 4,500 acres of open space in Corner Canyon and Traverse Ridge.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

DRAPER — When people think of Draper, city manager David Dobbins said it’s common to think of the city’s ongoing construction projects. However, since 2005, Draper and Salt Lake County officials and residents have quietly been working to change that perception through the preservation of open space.

At a brief commemoration ceremony on Monday at the Little Valley Trailhead in Draper, Dobbins, joined by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson and Draper Mayor Troy Walker, celebrated the journey of procuring 4,500 acres of open space in Corner Canyon and Traverse Ridge.

“That’s a pretty remarkable number,” Wilson said.

The open space runs from the Point of the Mountain to Sandy’s city borders, according to Dobbins. Currently, hikers and mountain bicyclists can take advantage of over 100 miles of trails in the area.

“This will be something that truly will be a lasting legacy,” Dobbins said.

But city officials are only getting started.

Along with improving trailheads, Walker said there are plans to create an additional 125 miles of trails in the future, as well as bathrooms and more parking spaces. Discussions surrounding a possible educational center have also begun.

“I really think that our mountains and our foothills are the heart and soul of our community,” Wilson said, adding that the open space increases access to recreation in the county.

In the span of 13 years, the land, mostly owned by Draper and held on a conservation easement by Salt Lake County, cost the city $18.2 million in taxes and the county $3.25 million.

The Salt Lake County Open Land Trust Fund Advisory Committee defines open space as a “parcel of land in predominantly open and undeveloped condition” suitable for natural areas, wildlife and native plant habitat, important wetlands or watersheds, and little to no land disturbance, according to the official Salt Lake County website.

In 2018, the city acquired 2,100 acres for $5.6 million as part of the Traverse Range Conservation Easement, and later sold 110 of those acres near Alpine for $7.3 million, according to Walker.

Walker said Draper residents are never too far from recreational opportunities and most residents live within 15 minutes from a trailhead.

“These trails and this open space that will be preserved forever is one of the main factors that makes it a high quality of life,” Walker said.

Dobbins said the effort began after residents wanted to prevent a developer from creating hundreds of residential units in the foothills of Draper. Instead, residents overwhelmingly supported a tax to help the city buy its first 1,000 acres of open land.

“We’ve been able to save the property from being developed,” Dobbins said.

“I think you’d have a hard time finding another city in the United States that has this much open space,” Walker said.

Before investing, Wilson said, years ago, the county issued an open space bond that identified “critical parcels” throughout the county, which included Corner Canyon. 

Wilson said Draper city officials have “supercharged” the county’s investment and has set an example.

“I can think of no other community that’s been able to do as much as they have,” she said.