In 2013, Mountain Accord stakeholders began a process of discussing the future of the Central Wasatch. These conversations generated the Wasatch Accord Mountain Accord Blueprint — a comprehensive and far reaching set of plans for the future covering four areas of concern: Environment, Recreation, Transportation, and Economics. All of these areas are the components of a comprehensive and holistic approach that will address our needs far into the future. This is not a shortsighted or piecemeal plan. The goal of The Mountain Accord is to create consensus around solutions that will stand the test of time.
In February of 2015, we asked you to look over our work and tell us what you think. We closed the comment period on May 1, 2015 and have been sifting through thousands of responses in each area of concern. Here’s a sampling of what we are hearing.
Connecting residents and visitors to mountain destinations and connecting communities and people to jobs via efficient and sustainable transit choices are issues facing Mountain Accord. The solutions have to manage the impacts of a rapidly growing population in ways that reduce reliance on automobiles and decrease impacts on the environment. Upgrading our Central Wasatch transit network will not only provide a more sustainable way to travel, it will also provide a powerful tool for the region to shape growth, reduce sprawl, and promote transit-oriented development that supports economic growth, quality of life, and environmental protection.
By far the majority of your comments centered on transportation and transit solutions in the Central Wasatch. This makes sense. The stresses that a growing population is imposing on both the Wasatch Front and Back, are most easily visible in traffic congestion in our canyons. As expected, we found a wide range of opinion regarding all the transit suggestions but the common thread that there was a high level of support for improving transit and restricting the number of cars allowed in the canyons.
Commenters also weighed in heavily on the idea of building high capacity light-rail trains in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Some commenters believe that such a system would provide an attractive alternative for drivers, would increase canyon safety, and offer a long-term solution to transportation issues in the canyons. Others pointed to worries over environmental and watershed disturbances that building a train might cause, while other themes questioned the wisdom of trying to get more people in the canyons.
Finally, the suggestion of connecting Big and Little Cottonwood by tunnels and Park City and Big Cottonwood by tunnel also drew much commenter focus.
Mountain Accord seeks to address threats, restore degraded areas, and increasingly protect environmental resources through increased protection of lands with high resource values, restoration of impaired streams and waterways, mitigation of invasive weeds, and other efforts. The Mountain Accord will establish an environmental monitoring program that will allow the identification of changing environmental conditions and adjustment to management practices to ensure long-term environmental health in the Central Wasatch, particularly in the face of a changing climate.
When considering the future of the environment and issues of protecting and conserving Central Wasatch resources, the highest concentration of comments centered working to preserve open spaces from future development and that all future plans for our canyons should continue to aggressively protect the watershed.
Mountain Accord includes a comprehensive program that would protect recreation access and preserve the variety of recreation options available for current and future generations. Over time, population growth, increases in recreation demand, and growth in new types of recreation will put continually greater pressure on the developed and undeveloped recreation areas of the Central Wasatch. This will result in crowding, resource damage, and degraded recreational experiences. We suggest an approach to permanently protect treasured landscapes and provide opportunities for active, healthy lifestyles and connection to the outdoors. It would support the developed summer and winter recreation experiences available at ski areas, as well as the dispersed recreation experiences available in the undeveloped areas of the Wasatch.
Commenters were supportive of efforts to expand, maintain and repair the trail network in the canyon.
Economic actions aim to provide the model for a world-class transit system to connect the Wasatch Front’s powerful and diverse economy to the specialized economies of Park City, Summit, and Wasatch counties. Right now, our canyons are entirely automobile-oriented and offer little choice for access. Commenters all recognize the need to reduce automobile dependence. Compact development patterns centered on transit solutions would limit sprawl in urban and mountain areas. It would also allow economic activity — such as workforce, tourist, and resident commerce — to reduce reliance on automobiles.
Comments about the Economy dealt primarily with concerns over ski area expansion. Because a significant amount of private land in the Central Wasatch, a solution that balances, a solution that balances private enterprise and public concern is a central point of our mission.