Coming soon: An off-highway trail near you
The dream of having an ATV/recreational trail system that will stretch from one side of Carbon County to the other is coming closer to reality every day. And that is proven by one little fact.
Signs have been recently installed on county roads denoting where dirt trail systems hook up with the pavement and pointing out routes along paved roads to dirt roads.
"Yes, we are putting signage in and there will be more coming," said Director of Building and Zoning for Carbon County Dave Levanger. "We have been working on this system for 10 years and the results are really starting to show now."
A decade seems a long time to work on something that seems so simple, but behind the grading of trails or the building a few culverts there is a lot more work that is done in offices and meetings than on the actual site. Over the years, the county, with the support of the Recreation/Transportation Special Service District Board and ATV enthusiasts, has been working to provide a system of trails that will not only interconnect across the county, but will also take those riders to areas where they can eat, purchase supplies and fill their tanks up. While it will be fun to have such a trail system in place for locals, it will also boost the economic well being of some of the merchants that are on the route as out-of-towners start to ride the trail.
The dream includes someday having events like the Rocky Mountain Jamboree that is held each fall in Richfield or the Marysvale UTV Jamboree held in August each year. Those events bring hundreds of people to those areas for the events and many of them return with others at later date to ride and show off what they have seen.
"This is definitely something that can contribute to economic development in the area and it's fun too," said Levanger.
Each end of the trail system has a loop. The loop on the west end of the trail spans areas like Pinnacle Peak, Bob Wright Canyon and the Consumers area. The eastern loop heads up Grassy Trail through Cottonwood Canyon and back down through Dry Canyon. In between there are a number of offshoot trails that travel to other areas.
Some of the system runs on existing dirt roads or BLM trails, other parts pass through SITLA land and private land. Private land was the part that was difficult to finish right-of-ways on and in one case it is still not settled. The area from Clark Valley up through East Carbon is a twisted piece of travel and getting the rights to go through this area took some doing.
The piece that is not finished and approved for passage is a keystone beyond the western loop that goes from where the trail comes out on Highway 96 near the Skyline Mine loadout up to Scofield town. That is a state highway and ATVs cannot be ridden on it. The Utah Department of Transportation has given the go ahead for riders to go south on the highway through Clear Creek and up Finn Canyon and other roads, because it is a dead end.
"We have been working to get this part accomplished," said Levanger. "One of the holdups is that there needs to be an overpass over the tracks and building that would cost $1.5 million."
There is also the issue of getting the right-of-way through private land there as well.
If completed that segment would allow access to the Pondtown area as well as Skyline Drive.
For visitors such a trail system would take them starting on the west through high alpine forests down through the desert and the upland back up into the mountains near Bruin Point. For locals it would mean no more loading up the four wheeler trailer to drive three or four miles to a trail head to unload and ride. That's because part of the trail system is on paved roads where previously off road machines could not go.
The various towns along the route have made designated routes for ATVs within their city limits and the county has allowed for driving on certain segments of county roads such as South Westerly Road, Carbonville Road and others.
As the route is constructed and finally put together there will be trail heads with areas for parking and unloading of machines from street legal vehicles and in a few rest stops witll be provided, some with restroom facilities.
Presently on the western end of the trail Nielsen Construction is doing a large amount of work including putting in a new culvert in an area southwest of Helper. Other improvements are also being made to the trails on that loop.
Other improvement will include Sunnyside approaching the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District for trail funding. Their request would pay to grade and pave a section of trail running from the Sunnyside Park to the mouth of Whitmore Canyon. Currently, this trail provides access to the county's system via Bruin Point and the Tavaputs Plateau.
In Sunnyside, OHV riders are largely by-passing the designated trail and choosing instead to ride along State Road 124, often at a high rate of speed. The dust and noise created by this traffic has become an issue for both town residents and the city's council. It is the hope of town officials that funding and subsequent maintenance will provide incentive for riders to use the designated trail.
Much of the county's system will be in place by this fall with smaller projects and hopefully the segment near Scofield completed in the near future.