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Volunteer group aims to preserve Utah Valley’s trails

March 30, 2019 GMT

Utah Valley is famous for a few things, lately, Silicon Slopes.

But it’s the other slopes — the mountains surrounding Utah Valley — that have now become the subject of a grassroots preservation movement.

Ever since there have been people in Utah Valley, there have been people hiking, biking, horseback riding and more in the mountains. But not all of them stay on formal trails.

This “trail blazing,” in addition to being unorganized, can be extremely harmful to the environment, leaving “scars” down a mountain face which can get worse over time from erosion and the re-direction of water runoff.

Now, the Mountainlands Association of Governments, along with the U.S. Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah County and cities in the foothills of Utah County, have come together to form the Utah Valley Trails Alliance, a volunteer organization dedicated to removing trails that are non-accessible or poorly made, improving and maintaining already-existing trails, and providing better access to trails all over Utah County.

The Utah Valley Trails Alliance just became a formalized group a few months ago, after conversations between the different organizations had been ongoing for over a year. The long-term master plan is split up into phases; phase one, addressing north Utah County trails from Point of the Mountain to Slate Canyon, recently wrapped up, and volunteers are onto phase two, south Utah County trails.

Not that any dirt has been moved yet. Rather, the phases begin with community feedback.

On Thursday evening, people who love trails gathered at the Spanish Fork Municipal Government building to look at maps detailing all of the trails in south Utah County — user-made, government-made, and everything in between. Residents could give feedback on all of the trails, saying which ones they used regularly, which ones they disliked and which ones they thought should be better developed and maintained.

“(Trails) are an asset to our communities,” Utah Valley Trails Alliance chairman-elect Keith Payne said. “It’s part of the quality of life that (we) want to maintain in (our) communities.”

Payne is an avid mountain biker who has lived in the Utah Valley for over 30 years. He’s biked a lot of trails in that time.

“Over that period of time I’ve seen the proliferation of trails, and seen the need for trail work,” Payne said. “As we get more people in the valley, it’s going to continue to grow ... we need some sort of formalization of the system, so that we a) can keep the trails open, but b) people know what they can and can’t do and utilize what’s there without over-loving the system.”

It’s a big, important job entirely on the shoulders of the community. Jim Price, the active transportation manager for the Mountainlands Association of Governments, explained that other big agencies, such as the forest service and the park service, simply don’t have the time or resources to undertake the job themselves.

“We’re trying to help (the Utah Valley Trails Alliance) become something that’s organized and solid and can carry itself into the future without being a government entity,” Payne said.

The long-term goal is sustainability — for the alliance, and the trails themselves.

“We need volunteers to engage,” Payne said. “Whether it’s through financial donations, through time commitments, whatever it is that they can do to help keep those trails maintained to be here perpetually, not only for themselves but for their children and their children’s children.”

Those interested in volunteering can find more information on the Utah Valley Trails Alliance Facebook page.

“We want to protect and use these trails so they can be used for generations to come,” one volunteer said.