The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that The National Forest Service is considering charging $6 per car for use of popular trailheads in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. An annual pass would cost $45 for frequent users of the trails. Their rationale is that five to six million people use these trails every year but there is little money to actually improve trailheads, etc.
It brings up an interesting question, should Park City and Summit County trails cost something to use? Maybe it costs $5 per car to park at trail heads? I know that people will say, that we already pay for open space, our taxes fund some trails, and that Mountain Trails does a good job of keeping up many of our trails. I agree with all of that.
Yet, shouldn’t the users of trails, pay for their use?
Perhaps a more tenable idea would be to provide an annual pass for free to people who live in Summit County. Those people from outside Summit County would need to purchase a pass. During the summer it’s not uncommon to run into people from the valley escaping the heat and using our trails. It’s sort of like the rumors you hear where a survey was done of the people who use the Park City ice rink and something like 50% of them were from Heber (if the Park Rag had a staff, we’d try to see if that rumor is fact… so for now take it for what it is… a rumor). Yet, the people of Park City were left paying more taxes to potentially build another ice arena because ours is at capacity. Shouldn’t the people, who haven’t paid for the construction of it, be required to pay a little bit toward it?
Our trails, just like our ice arena, have a cost. Shouldn’t all users bear those costs?
I’m not sure what the exact answer is. Perhaps, fees like this aren’t even legal given the conservation easements on much of our open space land. However, it’s something to consider.
At some point the people of Park City and Summit County will tire of paying for other people to use our services. That could be just around the corner with all the tax increases (transportation bonds, recreation bonds, school bonds, etc) that are likely coming our way. It could come as all the growth starts to happen across the Wasatch County line and people from Wasatch County want to use our nice new aquatic center, and field houses, and dog parks that we will likely be building.
I believe that time is drawing nearer.