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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Trailhead concept design for 26 -acres of open space acquired by Utah Open Landsin the works

Mar 30, 2023 11:15AM ● By Cassie Goff

Example of a typical concept plan for secondary access trailheads (not site-specific). (Photo courtesy of Mike Johnson/Cottonwood Heights)

A future Bonneville Shoreline Trail access location, trailhead and shared-use path within Cottonwood Heights will be located near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (9361 S. North Little Cottonwood Road). A conceptual site plan and trailhead design concept for the 26-acre parcel is beginning to be drafted. 

Since many municipalities identify the 26-acre parcel as a Bonneville Shoreline Trail access location, Utah Open Lands has termed it the Cottonwood Heights Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST) parcel. However, the area has commonly been referred to as the Despain property by the community.

Utah Open Lands purchased the property through a fundraising initiative in 2020 with the intent of open space conservation. The city of Cottonwood Heights contributed to the fundraising. Ownership was then transferred to the city so a conservation easement could be implemented for the property. 

UDOT has envisioned a shared-use path connecting Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon. This parcel would not only connect to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail but be an important component for the shared-use path connecting the canyons as well. 

Cottonwood Heights and Utah Open Lands are concerned that UDOT would be hesitant to construct a shared-use path on this parcel, due to the conservation easement, unless there is a conceptual site plan in place. 

“It’s not envisioned as a trail access with major amenities or large parking lots,” said Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson.

Councilmember Doug Petersen spoke to Utah Open Lands Executive Director Wendy Fisher as she has a vested interested in the parcel. Fisher believes that if Cottonwood Heights has a plan for the parcel in place, UDOT won’t be able to push them out with their own plans. 

“Planning for a shared-use path will be part of the design contract for this parcel,” Johnson said. “We would want to accommodate all modes of transportation.” 

The shared-use path may likely be designed as an asphalt trail separated from the roadway. The intention would be for the shared-use path to connect from the canyons to the trails to create a big recreation network that hikers, pedestrians, scooters, bikes, and people with strollers can utilize. 

Designing a conceptual site plan will help Cottonwood Heights city staff to seek outside funding for developing a trailhead with necessary minimal amenities. The Community and Economic Development Department does have the necessary funds, around $3,000, to develop a conceptual site plan within their budget already. 

“There have been times where the State of Utah asked if we have projects ready for funding options,” said City Manager Tim Tingey. “To be ready for that is really key.” 

“If we’re not ready…we’re last,” Petersen echoed. 

Mayor Mike Weichers emphasized how important getting the conceptual site plan designed quickly will be, as Gov. Spencer Cox has set his initiative for paved trail connectivity into action. 

“How are we going to ask for funding if we don’t have anything in mind?” Weichers questioned.  

The LCC BST parcel has been listed as a secondary access location within the Bonneville Shoreline Master Plan. Secondary access location site plans only need to account for some parking, minor amenities and trail access. 

The general guidelines for what those minor amenities can include have yet to be clearly defined. Suggestions for a shade structure and a bench, or two, have been circulated in city council meetings. Minor amenities do not have to include restrooms or major parking facilities. 

“When that land was purchased, it was meant to be open space,” said resident Nancy Hardy. “If we allow parking, there will be overflow with illegal parking.” 

It is possible to keep the number of parking stalls limited within the design for the conceptual site plan as there are numerous parking opportunities nearby. The existing park-and-ride location near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (4385 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road) already has 155 parking stalls and major amenities. In addition, parking in an unimproved dirt gravel area off the shoulder of the road is often utilized, even though it is technically in UDOT’s right-of-way.  

“I’m in favor of the initial design, especially if it’s with a multiuse path from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Little Cottonwood Canyon. It would be good to get a consensus with the stakeholders,” mentioned Councilmember Ellen Birrell on March 1.

Johnson reassured the council that feedback from the stakeholders will be requested and incorporated through the design process. 

On March 1, the Cottonwood Heights City Council unanimously approved Resolution 2023-10: Approving Entry into a Consulting Agreement for Trailhead Design Services. It was motioned by Councilmember Scott Bracken and seconded by Councilmember Peterson. Under a consulting agreement with the city, Blu Designs Corp. will prepare a conceptual design plan for an access trailhead for the parcel within the city’s boundaries.