Letter: Efforts to preserve the wildness of Little Cottonwood Canyon have a long history — and must go on

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fall color in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.

In 1976-77 I served an internship at Salt Lake City hall and was promoted to recreation programming supervisor. Since that experience, I have been an advocate for protecting the canyons that nurture our valleys and as a place for recreation. Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson solicited my support in 1982 to prevent a proposed massive condominium and new home project on private property (536 acres) at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, extending up to and beyond the Gate Buttress climbing cliffs.

The long history of Wasatch canyon protection stretches back to the pioneers, which started with the love of the outdoors and this sacred place. Now is not the time to compromise this protection.

We need to adopt the great examples of former political and environmental leaders – bipartisan in their approach — in preserving the canyon. A trade agreement, devised by the mayor, Zions Bank, the Trust for Public Land, the Forest Service and landowners road-blocked this development scenario. Every member of Utah’s congressional delegation went on public record supporting the land transfer. The Salt Lake Council of Governments also passed a resolution in support of preservation.

Today, with the threat of gondola construction through this tract — huge towers and thick cables cutting through a largely undeveloped landscape — these individuals and organizations would be shocked. Development was thwarted in the ‘80s, now an absurdly expensive gondola … What’s next?

Here they thought they had preserved this acreage in perpetuity, only to be usurped by commercial interests. To developers and up-canyon resorts this land is a commodity to be utilized for maximum financial gain. This is a waste and misuse of taxpayer funds, especially with other considerably less expensive options, including better use of public transportation. Yes, there are traffic issues, but the wildness of the canyon must be preserved. There are other ways.

Les Ellison, Salt Lake City

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