I will file this one under Gone But Not Forgotten. The leaders of the group CAGE (a group that fought for the environment around Park City for many years) reached out from their residence in Portland to make sure we were aware of developments related to Toll Canyon. Their thoughtful letter is worth a read:
Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! Although we have moved to Portland, we still own our house in Summit Park and have been watching the remarkable amount of growth in Park City from afar.
We want to encourage CAGE members and any interested citizens, particularly those who were instrumental in preserving the Toll Canyon property, to voice their opinions on how this canyon should be managed (see information on the Basin Recreation District public comment opportunity on the management of Toll Canyon found at http://basinrec.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/?appid=a9841c103588484496d0ac3978c3e2c0). The public comment period will close Mon. Oct. 26, 2015. All the necessary and relevant information, including how to make a public comment online can be found on that web page.
There will be two “Open House Events” in which questions can be directed to Basin Recreation. The first open house will be this Thurs. Sept. 24, 2015 at the Summit County Library in Kimball Junction (1885 W. Ute Blvd, PC, UT, 84098) from 6-8 pm. The second open house will be held Thurs. Oct. 22, 2015 at the Basin Recreation Trailside Boardroom (5715 Trailside Dr., Park City, UT 84098) from 6-8 pm.
We encourage people to read the management plan and voice their opinions. Here are some of our observations and opinions based on our reading of the plan summary:
1. Back Country Demarcation: Basin Recreation is to be commended for designating a large portion of the parcel for backcountry. The reason this parcel is so special is that the previous land owner, Jim Sorenson, managed it in a very low-impact way. This designation will help ensure the integrity and wildness of the backcountry portion of the parcel.
2. Riparian Area: The plan proposes that the trail following Toll Creek will be designated as hiking and equestrian use only, since this is a very narrow and confined trail that often has downed trees and is one of the most environmentally sensitive areas on the parcel. Although foot and horse traffic will likely increase along this trail (and potentially impact wildlife viewing), it will protect it from potentially destructive multi-purpose uses and is consistent with the conservation easement.
3. Mid-Mountain Trail Connector: There are two proposed new trails that would be multi-use, non-motorized trails and would allow mountain bikes. One trail would connect the Mid-Mountain Trail to a northern terminus/trail head. The concern we have with this Mid-Mountain connector include:
a. this trail parallels portions of existing mountain bike trails owned by the Pinebrook Homeowners Association. It seems a shame to not come to some type of agreement regarding use of the already-existing trail to minimize negative impacts on Toll Canyon;
b. this proposed trail also parallels Toll Creek and has the potential for significant impact on the wildlife due to substantially increased mountain bike traffic;
c. making this connection will turn the Mid-Mountain Trail into a “big destination” shuttle-type ride with bikers shuttling to start their ride at Guardsman’s Pass and using Toll Canyon to terminate their ride. This use has the potential for negative impacts to the wild aspects of the parcel from this increased traffic;
d. many of the trailhead parking spaces will be used for parked cars (that will be there for a long period of time), while riders complete the Mid-Mountain Trail, leaving less access for local community members and day hikers.
e. We believe an alternative route to a Northern Trailhead could be routed through the High-Ute parcel, and this warrants studying as an alternative IF as a community we believe the mid mountain trail should not be left as an out and back trail.
4. Summit Park Forest Legacy Trail Connector: Similarly, a proposed non-motorized trail (i.e. allowing mountain biking) would connect the Summit Park Forest Legacy open Space (i.e. the existing mountain bike trails on the west/southwest area of Summit Park) to the paved double-track which connects Summit Park to Pine Brook. Again, this would also create a situation where people will drive shuttles to the higher elevation while they leave their cars at the lower trail head. This will result in bikers bombing through the canyon and will severely degrade the solitude and wildlife experience visitors have of this currently serene location.
Do we want to allow mountain biking in Toll Canyon? We personally think this is not a good choice. There is ample mountain biking opportunities already available to the residents of Timberline, Summit Park and Pinebrook. There are very few places where people can hike without the presence of mountain bikes. We have nothing against mountain biking per se, but realize that there is a degradation to the hiking and wildlife viewing experience when you have to be constantly watching out for vehicles that are traveling at a high rate of speed down a rough trail. Wildlife is also more likely to be negatively impacted by the large influx of new users, which these proposed mountain bike trails will bring in to Too Canyon. One of the reasons that the canyon has been so wonderfully preserved is because the previous owner recognized these negative impacts and only approved limited access of hikers and horseback riders (with limited permits) and prohibited mountain bikes altogether.
Taking a long-range view: As Park City continues to grow, the opportunity to find wild areas will become increasingly difficult to find. If we can take a long-term view, with vision for generations of the future, we can manage this parcel in a manner that assures it does not become a high-multi-use, highly environmentally-impacted hotbox where bikers and hikers frequently conflict (think Round Valley). If we have offended mountain bikers, that is not our intention. We only hope to draw your attention to the importance of voicing your opinion about how this parcel is managed. We encourage everyone to attend the open houses and to submit their comments to Basin Recreation. And if you have never been to Toll Canyon visit it yourself on Thurs. Oct. 1, 2015 when Utah Open Lands and Basin Recreation will be hosting a hike. Meet at the Gorgoza Park Trailhead – 3863 Kilby Rd, PC, UT 84098 from 5:30-7:30. Shuttlebuses will be taking hikers to the Toll Canyon Trailhead.
We recently visited Park City after an almost 2-year absence. We were surprised to see the amount of building and change that has taken place in such a short period of time. This is why it is critical that we think long-term about how we manage the recently acquired open-space jewel of Toll Canyon. Speak up, let your voice be heard and realize that your recommendations will have an impact now and in the future.
Sancy and Craig