Looking west of Herriman offers a graceful view of the Oquirrh Mountains.
They look peaceful and give a glimpse of open spaces. Much of the area has been home to mining for decades, but planners envision a different, cleaner environmental future — by bringing more foot traffic to the foothills.
How? Trails. Lots of them.
Expanding the trail system in the Oquirrhs — from Magna in the north to Herriman in the south — will not only provide more outdoor options to west-siders but also relieve pressure to the east, where the Wasatch Mountains are often packed with year-round recreationists.
“This is long overdue,” Salt Lake County Council member Richard Snelgrove said, “having mountain outdoor recreational opportunities for those that live on the west side or anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley.”
Expanding Rose and Yellow Fork trails
Many of the planned trails would be in Yellow Fork and Rose canyons, according to the county’s draft plan for the west bench. The current trails draw hikers, runners, cyclists and horseback riders.
At a later stage, Butterfield Canyon would be connected to Yellow Fork and Rose canyons. The projects would be paid for through tourism, recreation, culture and convention funds, said Walt Gilmore, associate division director of planning and development for county Parks and Recreation.
The county is working with the Bureau of Land Management and Rio Tinto, which owns most of the Oquirrh’s east-facing slopes, to secure agreements and permits to build more unpaved, soft trails.
Some would come in the near future; others would take decades. Snelgrove said the first ones are expected to be ready this year or next.
Phase one calls for a 12-mile, single-track trail that would cut through BLM lands, near Herriman, to Yellow Fork Canyon. The county then would work on another phase in Butterfield Canyon, linking Rose and Yellow Fork.
“Much of this has been in negotiations,” Snelgrove said, “but all of us at Salt Lake County and Rio Tinto are operating in good faith and have been good partners to work with.”
Ritter Canal project
The County Council approved $10 million in February to complete east-west connectors, including trails along the Ritter and Utah and Salt Lake canals.
“Funding trails on the west side is a priority of mine,” County Mayor Jenny Wilson said. “We know more and more residents sought outdoor recreational opportunities in the past two years and are using these resources like never before. It’s important that we facilitate more equitable access.”
The county is exploring land acquisitions and the necessary easements to design a Ritter Canal trail that would run from West Valley City’s Decker Lane to Magna Copper Park.
“You don’t just go out there and put down a centerline for the trail and build it,” Gilmore said. “There’s a lot of negotiation that goes into the building of trails before you can even design it.”
Preliminary work could take from six months to a year as the county works with landowners.
The Ritter Canal trail would be relatively short (4.5 miles), but it is key. It ultimately would connect Magna to the Mid-Valley Trail and the Jordan River Parkway Trail.
Utah and Salt Lake Canal
The Utah and Salt Lake Canal trail may be easier to complete. In the long run, it would connect the Jordan Narrows in Bluffdale to Magna Copper Park. But, as of now, the funding would be enough to stretch the path to about 6200 South.
The county already has an agreement for an easement. Planners are in the design phase this year, looking at centerline alignments and the crossing of major roadways.
They plan to work in phases and have the initial stretch of the Utah and Salt Lake Canal trail ready in 2023 or 2024.
The county is also using funds to pay for the final phase of Parley’s Trail, a popular east-west path, to tie into the Jordan River Parkway Trail. The plan is to build a large pedestrian bridge at 900 West and another one that would cross the Jordan River.
Surrounding communities such as West Valley City and Herriman have been working with the county to tie the trails into their cities.
“We’re just really excited about it. One of our goals in West Valley is to really develop more interconnectivity,” said Nancy Day, West Valley City’s Parks and Recreation director. “I think it’s going to be really, really good for the residents of the west side of the valley.”
Expectations are also high in Herriman.
“Eventually, we hope that they’ll be able to connect the east side of the valley to the west side of the valley with trails,” said Anthony Teuscher, Herriman’s deputy director of Parks and Events. “You could have somebody that starts over in Draper, and hopefully, they’d be able to connect all the way over to the Yellow Fork or Butterfield Canyon trails over there, on the west side.”
The County Council aims to see an increased level of public engagement and expects residents to express their thoughts about the west-bench plan as it’s presented within the next few months.
“Decisions made now will affect the quality of life for generations to come,” Snelgrove said. “We got to get it right here on the front end. Because we won’t be in a position to have any do-overs.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.