We have recently completed the draft Existing Conditions Reports and Future Trendlines Summary for Recreation, Transportation and Economy. Please review here and provide

your feedback below before May 7.

The Environment draft will be available for comment beginning April 24. 

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Existing System

Three main roads access the canyons from the Salt Lake Valley on the east and Summit and Wasatch counties on the west:

  • Interstate 80 (I-80) connects the Salt Lake Valley to Summit County through Parley's Canyon. I-80 is an interstate highway and a key east/west corridor of national significance.

  • State Route 190 is a two-lane road that provides access to Big Cottonwood Canyon. State Route 190 connects to the Park City area via Guardsman Pass (state Route 224 to Park City/Summit County) and (state Route 222 to Midway/Wasatch County)

  • State Route 210 is a two-lane road that provides access to Little Cottonwood Canyon. State Route 210 ends at Alta and does not connect to the Park City side of the range.

  • Both state Route 210 and state Route 190 have sections of steep grades that can be difficult to navigate, especially in inclement weather.

  • State Route 224 and state Route 248 are two other key roads in Summit County:

  • State Route 224 is a five-lane highway that connects I-80 to Park City and ends at Guardsman Pass. The Kimball Junction interchange, where state Route 224 meets I-80, experiences congestion due in large part to the growth in the Snyderville Basin of Summit County

  • State Route 248 is a five-lane highway connecting

Park City to U.S. Route 40. State Route 248 provides a link between the population base of Wasatch County, namely Heber City and Midway, and Summit County.

Population Growth

Significant population growth is projected in Salt Lake, Summit and Wasatch counties over the next 30 years. The corresponding growth in recreational visits and development in and near the Wasatch Mountains will present a major strain on the existing transportation network. Addressing transportation issues in a way that protects the watershed and natural environment from overuse and development is one of the most important goals for the future of this vital area.

Previous Recommendations

Recommendations from the Mountain Transportation Study include short-term improvements that could be implemented while long-term improvements undergo National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), design, and construction processes. Short-term examples include express bus service, transit and high-occupancy vehicle priority, and access management at Snowbird and Alta. The study also recommends initiating the NEPA process for a significant transportation investment considered in conjunction with land use, conservation, development, and watershed protection.



About a half million local residents and businesses directly rely upon the Wasatch Mountains for their drinking water. In addition, through many decades of water planning and resiliency efforts, an additional half million residents and businesses have the ability to receive water from the Wasatch Mountains during emergencies, highlighting the critical importance of the mountain range for sustenance of the populations spanning Salt Lake, Summit, and Wasatch Counties. Protecting and preserving the region's watersheds is critical for people, forests, wildlife, and overall quality of life; water in the study area is precious and limited.

Wilderness Designation

Wilderness designation is one of the highest levels of protection given to public lands and can only be created or removed by an act of Congress. There are currently three designated wilderness areas in

the central Wasatch—Mt. Olympus, Lone Peak, and Twin Peaks—with additional areas in proposed wilderness legislation. In addition, the public has invested heavily in land conservation efforts. Thousands of acres in the central Wasatch have been protected for open space and watershed purposes during the last several decades through voter-approved bond funds, grants, and land preservation funds associated with Salt Lake City's water use fees.

Population Growth and Climate Change

Projected population growth will stress natural resources and result in new or additional environmental management challenges. Air quality is one concern that will need more stringent management with growth along the Wasatch Front. The combination of atmospheric inversions during winter months with automobile and other emissions leads to a thick fog of dirty air. In addition to growing population, climate change poses additional longer-term challenges associated with water resources and other environmental and natural resource conditions.

Prime Location

The proximity of the Wasatch Mountains to the Salt Lake Valley and communities in Summit and Wasatch counties makes northern Utah an attractive location to do business for industries such as outdoor recreation, technology, financial services and many others. Paired with northern Utah's high-quality transportation infrastructure, the area's recreation opportunities are a key lifestyle attribute considered when selecting a business location.

Tourism and Development

The tourism industry continues to grow in Utah. According to the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, the travel, tourism and recreation industry spent a record $7.4 billion in the state economy in 2012, and tourism-related state and local tax revenues totaled an estimated $960.6 million that same year.

• Statewide spending on skiing and snowboarding was estimated at $1.6 billion in 2007.

• Other year-round recreational opportunities in the central Wasatch Mountains attract out-of-state tourists and support in-state spending on recreational equipment and lodging.

• Given the attractiveness of the area for businesses and residents, real estate development is also an important sector to be considered in the economic analysis for the program.

• However, the economic benefits of the Wasatch Canyons and the pressures of increasing use need to be considered in the context of the health of the ecosystems and their natural values.

Current Use

Nearly 90 percent of Utah's residents live in communities along the Salt Lake Valley and in Summit and Wasatch counties. The mountains and foothills play a vital role in providing recreational opportunities that contribute to the healthy, active lifestyles of the population and attract new businesses and residents to the area.

The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is among the five most heavily visited national forests in the country, and is popular with skiers, hikers, backpackers, sightseers, and many other outdoor enthusiasts. In Summit and Wasatch counties, where the majority of the land in the central Wasatch Mountains is privately owned, residents have approved substantial bonding measures to acquire and protect open space, parks, and develop a nationally recognized trail system.

Due to the proximity of these areas to major population centers, high volumes of recreational visitors are common in the mountains. High levels of use can negatively affect the recreational experience and contribute to natural resource degradation that is noticeable in some locations.



Planning for the Future

The demand for recreational uses in the Wasatch Mountains is expected to increase as the local population and visitation numbers continue to grow. Additional increases in recreational use could further strain the quality of recreational experiences, increase pressure to develop land used for public recreation, and lead to additional natural resource degradation.



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