Journey to a Trail: Part 3
Part two of a three-part series on Utah’s Bonneville Shoreline Trail
In part one of this series, we explored how Trail Champions organized at the grassroots level to forward the planning and development of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST). Now we look at how builders and a city's trail advisory committee are working to get boots on the ground and shovels in the dirt.
After the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee (BSTC) was formed as a non-profit in 1991, it signed MOUs with the various municipalities and counties touched by the proposed trail. The 280 miles of the BST is set to serve as a major connector through Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber counties and the existing or planned trail systems in those areas.
IMBA and the BST
IMBA first got involved in the BST when the City of Draper invited a Trail Care Crew to work on a segment of the trail. Trail Specialist Joey Klein was part of that crew and has since then helped design and construct six passages to the BST.
“In around 1999 or 2000, an IMBA Trail Care Crew was called in to do our usual trail building clinic, a bit of education, and then work on a segment of trail that was going to connect to the BST. The coolest thing about this was that we ended up building a couple switchbacks and we did it with equestrians,” Klein recalled.
This unusual partnership with horse riders helped speed up trail construction and made for an unforgettable experience. The IMBA Trail Care Crew could only transport hand tools in their Subaru Outback, and lumber and metal were not available for the build. A group of equestrians offered to haul a horse trailer full of recycled pieces of sidewalk to be used for construction. One Saturday, side by side, mountain bikers and equestrians built a four-foot wall along switchbacks.
Last summer, Klein and some IMBA staff, along with Brad Jensen, a Civil Engineer in Draper, and Greg Hilbig, Draper’s Trails and Open Space Manager, rode part of the BST.
“During the ride, Brad and Greg said, yeah, those are the switchbacks you built for us in 1999,” shared Klein.
Klein returned to Utah regularly after that visit to Draper. In 2003, a new Trail Care Crew taught volunteers from the community, including some Eagle Scouts, how to build on what had been started. That same year, Klein stayed in Utah for two months, working with the City of Draper and other agencies to design five passages from Draper to Salt Lake. Some of those designs are still being used to this day.
“John Knoblock is actually walking and flagging where I flagged twenty years ago, and doing an even better job of really trying to get the grades right,” said Klein.
Klein finds himself returning to the area regularly, often not for work. Sometimes he will make a stop if he happens to be driving by, to visit friends he has made over the years while working on the BST.
“It’s one of the only places I’ve worked where they’re all still there. It’s been almost 25 years and they’re all still there and all friends. That visit in 2003 really kicked off IMBA Trail Solutions. It was one of the first Trail Solutions projects.” Klein said.
The BST just saw its biggest season of progress to date, with segments such as Parley’s Pointe (4.2 miles) built by High Country Conservation; Rattlesnake in Mill Creek Canyon (1.2 miles) built by Nature Trails; and a connector between North Salt Lake and the BST (~8 miles) by Avid Trails.
IMBA Trail Solutions is now working with the City of Bountiful in the design of trail segments that are either part of the proposed BST or part of the downhill bike-optimized trails that spur off the BST.
A committee and a bounty of trails
Cities and counties are in charge of the planning and construction of trail segments in their respective jurisdictions. This gives residents a sense of ownership and also allows for community building, according Bob Larsen, Chair of the Trails Advisory Committee for the City of Bountiful in Davis County.
“Each county will have a unique section of the BST although they'll all be linked together. So the counties can problem-solve according to what works best for their population with input from their cities and their communities,” said Larsen.
Each jurisdiction does things differently. In the City of Bountiful, a Trails Master Plan was put together by the city and later on, a Trails Advisory Committee was selected to enact the plan. Larsen's involvement in the committee, which started a year and a half ago, came about from his passion for the outdoors and his desire for more trails in the community.
“I’m a pretty avid mountain biker and I hike a lot. We live right here in this community so we’re up in these hills a lot. I was just an avid trail user who was probably more vocal than I should have been to a city councilperson. I was appointed to the committee and immediately made the chair. Now I'm all in,” said Larsen.
He added laughing, “I should have kept my mouth shut.”
Larsen does not regret speaking up and getting involved. For him, the committee was the perfect opportunity to add new trails to a community which had not seen a trail constructed in almost 60 years. However, when Larsen took on work as Committee Chair and was presented with Bountiful's City Trails Master Plan, he knew his work was cut out for him.
“The plan was pretty much a wishlist with really just lines on paper and no real design. We started looking around, and we realized that the trails they put on paper weren't feasible and there were much better options that we could do. So then we started an in-earnest design plan, which was basically a bunch of us on the committee doing reconnaissance and drawing better lines on maps and saying this is where we should go,” said Larsen.
Larsen and his team quickly realized that they would need more resources to build the world-class trails they envisioned. The committee worked with the city to pass a $5 million parks and trails bond, with about $2 million of that amount earmarked for trails. They then hired IMBA Trail Solutions to finalize plans.
“IMBA helped us go through the correct processes and really opened our eyes to how we should do it. While we were going through the process, they said, well while you're doing this, why don't you do this? What we had was a good plan and they made it a great plan. I mean, we're gonna have really world-class trails here,” said Larsen.
Some 10 miles of the BST run through Davis County, and the City of Bountiful has plans for spurs and loops of downhill trails that will connect to the BST. Summer 2022 will be a big build season for Bountiful. According to Larsen, one of the highlights will be two downhill trails that will go off of Elephant Rock, a popular landmark in the area. These trails will allow mountain bikers to ride downhill without sharing the trail with hikers.
Bountiful and IMBA Trail Solutions are also working with professional trail builders hired by other jurisdictions to make connections on parts of the trail that make the most sense. User groups including hikers, runners, and equestrians are also taken into consideration. The BST is often described as a trail with something for everyone.
Don’t keep your mouth shut
When asked how other avid trail users can get involved in getting more trails on the ground, Larsen said to be vocal about your passion.
“They should not keep their mouths shut,” Larsen laughed. “They should absolutely talk to people in their city. I was shocked at how receptive city officials were. They really didn’t even know that we were short on trails. Once they became aware and they saw the vision, our city has been really supportive. So I think you just need to get involved and you can make some amazing things happen.”
He also stressed the value of working with professionals.
“It's more than worth it to have professionals onboard. We learned real fast that we don't know what we're doing. We thought we could just go up there and build trails. Turns out we were on Forest Service land and needed to get NEPA approval and go through all these processes which we didn't even know existed,” Larsen said.
Community and connection
“One of the greatest things about the BST is that it was just a major catalyst for trails and linking communities all along the Wasatch Front. It has lit a fire all along the whole range,” Klein said.
The journey to BST completion is far from over, but the sense of community the trail has brought about helps keep momentum going. For Klein, connection, both physical and emotional, is what helps kindle his fire and passion for the BST.
“I was working on a passage that linked North Ogden to Pleasant View, and at the time there was no way to get between those neighborhoods because it had been blocked off by a developer. I was out there on a machine, and I was starting to meet all the neighbors because every day they’d come out with their mountain bikes, dogs, or horses to see how far construction had gone,” shared Klein.
He continued, “One day, there was a mountain biker behind me. I knew his name, I saw him every day. In front of me was a trail runner with his dog. I knew his name. They see each other and one of them is like, ‘Bill is that you?’ These guys went to high school together and hadn't seen each other in probably 15 years. I shut down the machine and they both kinda crawled around it and gave each other hugs. I was almost in tears. These guys hadn’t seen each other in so long and the trail made that connection. It was the classic story for what the BST does.”