Scofield's council opposes connecting town to trail system
In what appears to be the first real opposition to a county-wide trail system, the town council in Scofield discussed whether to formally object to the trails on Monday.
The county proposed trail system spans from Skyline Drive to Nine Mile Canyon, and shows connections to each of the towns in the county.
Once constructed, the proposed trail would pass through Scofield.
Scott Hollman, a resident of the town, presented information he had discovered relating to how similar trails have affected towns like Scofield.
Specifically, he visited Marysvale, a small town about 30 miles outside of Richfield.
Hollman said he chose the community because in proposing how the trail system would affect Scofield, county planning officials had made direct comparisons between Scofield and Marysvale.
However, Hollman reported that Marysvale is in many ways quite different from Scofield.
He pointed out that Marysvale is in an area that still offers land in and around the community that individuals and businesses can purchase and develop.
Scofield, on the other hand, is primarily bounded by private ranches a few developed properties, with little room for growth in the town or immediately surrounding it.
While Scofield does have some vacant structures, the community consists of approximately 100 developed lots.
As a result, growth may be limited by constraints not present in Marysvale.
Hollman pointed out that figures regarding potential growth presented by county officials may have been somewhat misleading.
He said most of the businesses in Marysvale existed prior to the development of the trail system.
Figures presented by the county indicated that as many as 20 businesses existed in Marysvale.
Hollman pointed out that the correct number is actually 16..
Three of the reported businesses were cabins rented on a long-term basis, he added.
Another is a religious-based business that is associated with a church and is likely not affected positively or negatively by trail use.
That limits the total number of businesses with a commercial presence to 12. Three operate only during the season the trail is used and the other nine appear to function year-round.
Another difference between the two communities relates more directly to the trail. Current plans for the trail in Carbon County show a single east to west route. County planning officials have indicated that the long-term plan is to add loops, giving side routes to many areas away from the main trail.
Hollman told the council that he believed the figures showing the potential for growth were flawed and that any growth the town experienced would be substantially smaller than the county's suggestion.
"When they give this town information, it had better be good, fair and accurate," said Hollman. "We're not here to be misled."
He added that there is already some growth in the area. Gas exploration is bordering on the edges of town; Skyline Mine is expected to reopen within a decade; and real estate development in the area around the reservoir is likely to increase the viability of retail stores.
Hollman said the town should consider looking at those areas more for growth opportunities than at the trail system.
Other town residents at the meeting pointed out that the trial the passes through Marysvale, the Paiute ATV trail, is one of the largest developed trail systems in the nation. They said that it was a stretch for the county to compare the impact of the two trails, when one is clearly much smaller than the other.
However, economic questions were just part of the town residents' opposition to the proposal.
One of the primary arguments against the county's proposal is the question of law enforcement. The proposed trail system passes through three other incorporated municipalities: Helper, Sunnyside and East Carbon. Helper has its own police department, as does East Carbon. Sunnyside, on the other hand, contracts services from East Carbon.
Scofield is the odd duck of the county when it comes to law enforcement, relying almost solely on county officers for enforcement. The council noted that officers of the county sheriff's department are in Scofield as little as once per week. United States Forest Service rangers operate a station six miles away from the town and may be available on a limited basis. However, the station is operated from May to September and could be considered as supplemental coverage to the county sheriff.
Figures provided by the county suggest that as many as 500 individuals per day may pass through the town. Without law enforcement present in the area, residents expressed their view that keeping trail users from leaving the trail may be a problem for the town.
With the amount of traffic the county suggests, residents are also concerned about the noise generated by bikes and ATVs. County officials have responded to those concerns by stating that the speed limit through the town would be set at 15 miles per hour. County officials said that if trail uses observe the speed limit, noise may be reduced.
However, that brings many back to the question of law enforcement. Further, Hollman added that in his research in Marysvale, he learned that residents in that area continue to have a problem with noise pollution from the trail.
"The speed limit isn't the problem," said Hollman. "The problem is two-stroke engines and four-stroke engines that have been modified."
In order to address the potential problems associated with law enforcement, the council looked at a few options. The town currently has a law that makes it legal for off-highway vehicles to travel from one point to another in the town, prohibiting cruising or frivolous, repetitious riding.
The council considered options that ranged from requiring registration and the issuing of permits from each rider who passed through the town, to banning OHV use in the town entirely.
"We can modify or abolish the ordinance, but we still have a problem," said Mayor Mike Erkkila. He pointed out that even if the town council banned all riding and stopped the county trail system from passing through the town, there would be riders to deal with.
The county has already stated that the trail will come from Helper and Consumers Canyon to Broads Canyon, just four miles south of Scofield. Erkkila said that riders would still enter the town with a trail head that close.
Since the announcement of the trail system and the conflict that has developed between Scofield and Carbon County, residents have questioned whether the town would be able to stop the county from putting a trail through Scofield.
"We just don't want it running through neighborhoods people have enjoyed their entire lives," said Hollman.
In 2000, the town had a population of 28, now estimated at 21. With as few individuals as live in the town, residents wonder if the county could force the town out of existence. Craig Bunnell, the town's attorney, said that the county did not have that ability. He said that as long as the town remained financially secure and population was kept to a minimum level, and any initiative to dissolve the town would have to come from the residents of Scofield.