County officials explore establishing designated trail system
|Switchbacks wind out of the bottom of Broads Canyon to the pass that joins to Beaver Canyon. The proposed OHV route uses existing routes such as this county road. However, this pass is just one of many sections of the proposed route that crosses private land. The issue of rights of way through private land is one of many problems that county officials will be forced to tackle as the project progresses.|
As commissioners have explored options for increasing recreation and tourism throughout the area, the officials have discovered an idea that has received support from citizens and county boards like the restaurant tax panel and the special service district.
The idea involves establishing a designated trail system through the county that would accommodate off-highway vehicles and possibly equestrian traffic.
As the concept is moving out of conception into initial development stages, county planning staff has discovered that the idea is not only possible, but may be easier than originally thought.
County planning staff has developed a proposed route of the trail system.
The proposed route is subject to change, but county planning director Dave Levanger pointed out that the trail system currently under consideration runs on existing county roads for the most part.
By using existing roads, the county may be able to more easily secure any necessary rights of way in order to proceed with the proposed project.
The project would connect existing trail systems that have already been designated as OHV routes in cities and towns within the county.
"Everyone says to start at the west end," commented the county planning director.
But Levanger pointed out that the route from the county's western border to Helper may have some of the toughest obstacles to overcome as far as determining and securing rights of way for the trail.
The west end of the proposed trail starts on land managed by the United States Forest Service with existing OHV routes in along Pondtown and Little Bear roads.
The routes cross Carbon lines into Sanpete and Utah counties and connect with the Great Western Trail.
The Great Western Trail is a trail that extends from Canada to Mexico through Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona.
By tying into it, the county trail system becomes a spur for traffic off of the Great Western Trail.
Little Bear and Pondtown roads join to head toward the west shore of Scofield Reservoir, where they meet Dry Canyon Road.
The route from Dry Canyon to the Utah County line along Pondtown Road is 4.1 miles, while the route to the Sanpete County line along Little Bear Creek is a little longer, 4.7 miles from Dry Canyon.
The proposed trail will then head south from Pondtown along Dry Canyon Road to the town of Scofield.
The route covers 4.6 miles before the trial meets up with Utah Highway 96.
The route from the U.S. Forest Service line to the town of Scofield along Dry Canyon Road on the west side of Scofield Reservoir has already been declared by county officials as an approved OHV route. It crosses primarily private land, but by staying on or near existing roadways, the county hopes that right of way issues across this section will be minimal.
Scofield has designated certain roads through the town as approved routes. The portion from Pondtown to Scofield is the first of many routes that connect the dots between one approved OHV trail and another.
As the trail heads south from Scofield, it approaches what Lavanger considers to be the first major obstacle. The route follows Highway 96 from Scofield for 3.3 miles to a rail crossing just south of the coal loadout for Skyline Mine. Unlike other portions of the trail system, trail users will not be allowed on the road surface. Instead, the county will have to provide a trail that runs parallel to the highway and stream.
"In some places, there might be as little as 20 feet between the edge of the road and the edge of the stream," said Lavanger.
To overcome the obstacle of such a narrow route, trail planners are looking at a variety of options. One such option is an elevated platform for trail users. The platform would stand on stilts a few feet off the ground and would allow snow built up in the winter months to collect below the platform.
Levanger said he envisions the platform to have a wooden deck to accommodate equestrian traffic. Other possibilities along S.R. 96 include an improved surface with a barrier between trail users and highway traffic, such as the trail up Spring Canyon constructed by the county a couple of years ago.
While this may be one of the more troublesome stretches along the trail, Levanger pointed out that the land on either side of the route is owned by Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District, and that may help as the county looks at it options along the route. Right of way issues may not be as difficult.
Just past the coal loadout, the proposed trail crosses a Union Pacific rail line. Levanger pointed out that crossing rail lines is one factor that has helped shape the currently proposed route. Securing the right to build a new crossing over rail lines is not an easy task, he explained. So the route has used existing rail crossings as it crosses railroad tracks.
From the rail crossing, the trail heads to the east, up Broads Canyon and over a pass connecting to Beaver Canyon. The summit of the trail over this pass is one of the highest points on the trail.
"From on top, you can see clear to Colorado," said Levanger. He believes that this trail is one of the most spectacular and breath taking sections of the trail.
It is also one of the steepest. The trail leaves SR 96 at an elevation of 7,650 feet. In four miles, it climbs to 9,550 feet at the summit, before heading down into the Castle Valley.
It is along this route that the trail crosses the Gordon Creek Wildlife Management Area.
The trail passes Horizon Mine as it drops down into Consumers Canyon and onto Consumers Canyon Road. Here, the trail passes the historic ghost towns of Consumers, Great Western and Coal City.
The trail continues along Consumers Canyon Road to the Wildcat coal loadout. Just before the rail line, the trail leaves Consumers Canyon Road and heads north. This helps deal with the fact that when trains are being loaded at the Wildcat loadout, they often block the tracks at the crossing on Consumers Canyon Road.
From the rail crossing, the trail then heads northwest, mostly following the railroad grade and connects into approved OHV routes in Helper.
With that portion of the trail planned, three existing OHV routes are connected by the proposed route, from the northwest corner of the county, on U.S Forest Service land, then south to Scofield and southeast to Helper.
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of four stories concerning the suggested route and issues relating to the proposed OHV/equestrian route across Carbon County.