NORTH OGDEN — As anyone involved will attest to, creating a public trail through a patchwork of private and public property is a complicated and lengthy process in which land and rights-of-way are negotiated one piece at a time.
The recent addition of 200 acres to the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest adjacent to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail serves as a prime example of the range of interests that must come to the table to make trail expansion work.
In a deal brokered by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, 200 acres of private land next to a half-mile stretch of the BST were recently sold to the U.S. Forest Service for $1.6 million.
The property, located in Weber County near North Ogden, provides stunning views of the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake, and protects a water source for North Ogden.
While the deal doesn’t actually expand the trail itself, it helps ensure a corridor around the trail that will remain free of residential or commercial development. It is the first acquisition in a plan to acquire property along the BST in the North Ogden area.
Currently, there is a gap between the BST and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which the Trust for Public Land and the Forest Service are working to close to prevent development adjacent to the trail.
To buy the land, the Forest Service used money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the federal government’s main source of money for protecting land for the public. Money for the fund comes from a portion of royalties paid to the government by oil companies on oil and gas production from federal offshore leases, and does not come from taxpayers.
“The Bonneville Shoreline Trail has long been a priority for us in our Utah conservation work, and we look forward to continue working with communities along the Wasatch Front to expand trail access and protect lands along the trail in the coming years,” said Michael Patrick, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “This latest acquisition is a great example of how communities can protect recreational amenities and natural resources for their residents in advance of growth.”
Local and county governments have shown strong support for the deal, he said.
In 2005, a five-mile stretch of the BST just north of North Ogden and Pleasant View was opened to the public by a trail easement along an existing utility corridor granted by Rocky Mountain Power to Weber Pathways.
“This acquisition is a huge milestone in the expansion and protection of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail,” said Meg Krusemark, executive director of Weber Pathways.
The trail’s master plan calls for an uninterrupted path from the Utah/Idaho border south to Nephi, and the protection of this half-mile stretch is an important step toward the completion of that project, Krusemark said.
Brian Ferebee, supervisor of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said the BST is important because it’s where ever-expanding Wasatch Front cities meet national forest lands.
“As growth continues, it is imperative that we continue to look for opportunities to secure access to the public lands along the Wasatch Front so users can both access and enjoy their public lands,” Ferebee said.
The Forest Service and Trust for Public Land are now working to acquire and protect more land in the immediate area in the coming years, he said.
Of course, the owners on the previously private land had to be on board for the sale to move forward. The landowners that sold the property were led by David K. Richards of Salt Lake City, who had owned the property for more than 40 years and wanted to see it protected. Richards passed away earlier this year.
“I am at peace knowing that my husband’s wishes that this beautiful piece of property be maintained pristine for the generations to come have now been realized,” said his wife, Sharon Richards. “I am thankful for all those who helped make this possible and a special thanks to our friends at The Trust for Public Land and the Forest Service.”
Those who appreciate and use the Bonneville Shoreline Trail will be thankful, too.