Committee Works To Avoid Trail User Conflicts
Feb 20, 2015 02:00PM
● By Mimi Darley
Sam Hilbig rides his bike on a beginner flow trail, photo courtesy of Greg Hilbig/Draper City.
City Councilmembers Bill Colbert, Alan Summerhays and Marsha Vawdrey have recently expressed concern over problems on the city’s trails. Colbert was specifically concerned about someone getting hurt as a result of something like a hiker and mountain biker collision. He’s also concerned about parents feeling safe taking their small children for walks on the city’s trails.
“Part of our city’s branding is our trail system,” Colbert said.
At their request, Greg Hilbig, Draper City’s trails and open space specialist, recently spoke to the council about their concerns.
Hilbig said the city has had a low rate of physical accidents because of collisions, and he likened the issue of conflict on the city’s trails to those drivers who don’t follow the rules of the road, ignoring yield and speed limit signs and putting other drivers at risk.
“There will always be roughly 5 percent of users who make all the others look bad,” he said.
Hilbig said he’s put a great deal of signage on the city’s trails to educate users and that volunteers are needed to help patrol the city’s trails to encourage adherence to those rules and trail etiquette.
Police Chief Bryan Roberts confirmed that Draper’s two Student Resource Officers spend their summers patrolling the trails when school is not in session.
Meanwhile, a volunteer committee meets monthly at Draper City Hall to tackle the issues that inevitably arise for a city with more than 88 miles of trails. They also plan for improvements on existing trails and the development of new ones. There is wildlife to consider as well.
Jamie Pogue serves as chairman of the Parks and Trails Committee that, with the help of some Draper City employees, is tasked with resolving issues that arise in a city with a lot of open space and a variety of trail users.
Pogue says the issue of user conflict has always existed because, “No amount of rules, or enforcement, will ever get 100 percent of the people to comply.” But he feels that the percentage of complaints the committee has gotten from users has actually gone down.
“We haven’t really seen much, if any, increase in trail conflicts in the last few years, even though we know that the numbers of users has skyrocketed in the last few years,” he said.
Pogue said that WaterPro placed cameras in the canyon a few years ago to monitor violators of the watershed area. In doing so, WaterPro helped the city by estimating trail users as being roughly 75-80 percent bikers, 15-20 percent hikers/runners, and equestrian users near 5 percent.
Kent Player recently retired as chair of the committee but still volunteers as a member of the group. Player said there are really four classes of trail users: equestrians, hikers, hikers with dogs and people on bikes. He noted that hikers must always have dogs on a leash, otherwise it interferes with the watershed, and/or the dog might attack another trail user.
Player said that in addition to the problems that come when a dog is off its leash on the city’s trails, “The biggest conflict seems to be people on bicycles that ride downhill too fast.”
The committee has taken actions such as building trails that are specifically aimed at particular user groups while not allowing other types of trail users.
For example, equestrian users and hikers can now enjoy a new trail (yet unnamed) that opened last fall that runs through the middle of the canyon, all the way from the bottom to the top. The Rush Trail in the center of the canyon is a downhill trail for mountain bikers only. And the Maple Hollow downhill trail is geared toward more extreme mountain bikers only.
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Pogue said.
Other city trails are aimed at walkers or cyclists who want a gentle grade. And the Little Valley trails for beginning bikers and families recently opened.
Pogue praised the city’s leaders for the trail system that he called “a jewel along the Wasatch Front”, for a “city who supports outdoor activities” and for “a committee who work together to foster a multi-use trail system…with fairness and compromise.”
Player has seen the issues on trails change over the 14 years he’s served on the committee.
“At first, we didn’t have any trails identified, before we had control of the canyon. Then there was the issue of vehicles in the canyon,” he said.
Now, Player said that in addition to user conflicts that occasionally arise among different types of trail users, the number of people who flock to the trails on sunny Saturdays and warm weekday evenings is something they’re also trying to balance. Added to that is the issue of allowing for special events (such as races) to be scheduled with the city while not interfering with other trail users.
Mayor Troy Walker praised the committee’s work saying the committee, “…does a phenomenal job. They’re constantly dealing with this issue (user conflict) and coming up with solutions.”
The committee will continue its work, including master planning land the city purchased from Zion’s Bank, nearly doubling acreage in the Corner Canyon Regional Park and putting Draper City’s total open space at nearly 5,000 acres.
“We take this responsibility very seriously and hope that the next phase of our park is even better than the existing, developed part of Corner Canyon. I would like to look back at this process when we are done and see that we’ve been successful in keeping our user groups happily co-existing and that we’ve preserved a great recreation area for generations to enjoy,” Pogue said.