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Utah Open Lands BST Protection Efforts

          As development encroaches on the foothills surrounding the Salt Lake Valley, critical access to national forests and urban recreation is at risk. While Utah is fortunate to have easily accessible recreational opportunities in close proximity to our urban neighborhoods, maintaining regional connectivity, access, and diverse recreational opportunities is increasingly harder to secure.

Though the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST) is intended to be a regional connection, its protection lies in working with private landowners to secure actual trail easements and associated open space to both implement trail continuity and trail experience. Communities along the BST have worked to purchase segments of the trail, with the concept being to have a regional trail along what was the shoreline of Lake Bonneville. Collective efforts from groups such as Trails Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Sandy, Cottonwood Heights, North Salt Lake, Bountiful, Centerville, Farmington, and Draper have all played a role in establishing portions of the BST. Since the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee initiated the vision for a connected regional trail from Utah County to Idaho, Utah Open Lands has supported this vision and actively contributed to this legacy. For example, in 2019, Utah Open Lands successfully protected 26 acres of land at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, providing a critical access point to the BST (known as the Cottonwood Heights BST).

          Many of us are sometimes under the impression that trails we have access to or open space close to our backdoor are public when, in fact, sometimes these trails and open spaces are in a holding pattern until private landowners seek to develop them. Utah Open Lands has worked for decades to provide private landowners with conservation solutions when certain landscapes are particularly treasured by the community, often collaborating with these landowners to place these properties under conservation easement.

          Utah Open Lands is currently collaborating with a private landowner who owns a crucial section of land along the BST. Utah Open Lands is facilitating a purchase of approximately 10 acres. Making the acquisition possible is a contribution of value from the landowner, a grant from the Office of Outdoor Recreation totaling $1.44 million, and funding secured by Salt Lake City, contributing $320,000 towards the purchase. The remaining $40,000 needed to finalize the acquisition of this property has yet to be secured, although Utah Open Lands has pending grants for additional funding resources to be applied to the purchase. In addition to the 10-acre acquisition, which will secure the trail and a potential trailhead location, Utah Open Lands is in current discussions with the landowner regarding the remaining land that is contiguous and is currently moving through Salt Lake City Planning for development. Utah Open Lands is hoping that community members and donors will step forward with pledges so that the organization can demonstrate to the landowner that we would be successful in gaining support to acquire the remaining land instead of watching a development scenario win out. Utah Open Lands is accepting pledges to support negotiation and acquisition of additional land along this section of the BST.

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