Making Trails: Grit Mill Project
Shovels are turning on Grit Mill project
in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
With Utah’s population expected to double in the next 20 years, one of the central goals of Mountain Accord is to put plans in place to manage increased use of the heavily trafficked Central Wasatch Range. With this in mind the MA Executive board is helping fund a trails project at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, that they hope will serve as a template for future projects.
“The whole idea of Mountain Accord is to manage increased use for the future,” Mountain Accord Director Laynee Jones said. “We want people to enjoy the activities they enjoy today even as we protect the resources.”
The Grit Mill area has been used for decades by rock climbers, who test their mettle on the granite walls. The result, however, of years of unplanned usage has been a “spiderwebbed” collection of access trails that cause erosion and degradation of the water shed. The Grit Mill project is cleaning up trails system and installing an organized planned system of access routes. The new system will serve both hikers and climbers and help restore the fragile ecosystem. The project has already removed the unsightly Grit Mill, an old industrial structure that was an eyesore and magnet for graffiti and vandalism. And now shovels are turning on the trail building and signage work, which owing to the terrain, says Salt Lake Climbers Alliance Executive Director Julia Geisler, is the real heavy lifting.
“The area up against the climbing walls is super technical rocky terrain,” Geisler said. “It’s not easy building stone stairs and good trails but with the buy in from the Mountain Accord and the Forest Service we can do it.”
The Mountain Accord Executive Board voted in September to release $20,000 in funding to assist the project, this will go into the pile the non-profit climbers alliance helped raise through private donations and grant money through the Wasatch Legacy Project and the help of other partners. Mountain Accord Director Laynee Jones says the project is emblematic of the sensible planning Accord signers want to see throughout the Central Wasatch.
“The Grit Mill Project is about collaboration among a lot of interests,” Jones said. “The climbers themselves have seen the impact of their activities on this area and it was really through their initiative that they were able to bring together partners, many of whom who are on the Mountain Accord board, to reconstruct the trails in a way to mitigate erosion and protect the watershed.”
The situation being remedied in the Grit Mill area is all to common throughout Central Wasatch. The prolific spiderwebbing of trails occurs when hikers, bikers, climbers and other users venture off established trails and create new ones, causing confusion, erosion and damaging the watershed. As the Grit Mill project demonstrates, the solution is trail rehabilitation, clear signage and organized trail heads, which Mountain Accord, a historic document signed in summer of 2015, by 20 stakeholders seeks to implement.
NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY
Sept. 26 is National Public Lands Day, volunteers are sought to help clean up trails and help with restoration projects on public lands throughout Utah. The Salt Lake Climber’s Alliance invites the public to the Grit Mill area from 8:30 a.m. to noon to help with project and tour the area. For more click here.