Former Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson said it’s about time.
As a member on the council, “I was occasionally known to lament that we were great for building trails for our tourists,” Jackson said. But providing for residents themselves? Not so much.
But a proposed 5.5-mile walking/biking path is for Grand County, more than for its guests.
“This is for us,” Jackson said Monday night at an open house to unveil the idea.
At this point, an idea is all it is.
“This is very early on,” said Grand County Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine to about 50 people who arrived during the first half hour of the informal meeting.
Levine was pleased at the turnout.
“I think it’s a testament to how much you all care about this place,” he said.
And the process Levine and trail-planning committee members (including Jackson) are using to develop the idea is a nod to that. Rather than drafting a plan and then later getting folks on board, planners are gathering input from citizens at the outset.
“This is a grass-roots start,” said committee member and Grand County Roads Department Supervisor Bill Jackson.
“Your input is very important as to how this project proceeds. It’s the nexus with the roads department that could allow the trail to be built within the next few years. We were looking at this 20 years ago,” Levine said, but now there is a “potential funding source to help make it possible.”
That source is the Utah Department of Transportation. And while the purpose of the trail is not to service the area’s outdoor-tourism industry, it is that very industry that might make the trail a reality.
Levine and other planners are hoping to tie the trail into traffic congestion mitigation funding UDOT has made available to four tourism “hot spots” in Utah. Moab is one of the four.
The primary focus of the funding is Moab’s Main Street and downtown area. But trail planners anticipate that, in addition to being a recreation trail, the Spanish Valley Drive path will allow for alternative transportation between Spanish Valley and Moab. Given the culture of the area, they anticipate many residents would choose walking or biking the path between the areas, rather than driving.
“We hope this could actually help alleviate congestion,” Levine said.
The path would run alongside Spanish Valley Drive from its intersection with Mill Creek Drive to the San Juan County line, about 5.5 miles. Levine said there is some interest in having San Jan County complete another two-mile extension south of the county line.
The type of path, and what kind of separation it will have from the road itself, is yet to be decided. It will depend mainly on two things: public input and available space. Right now, planners would like to see a biking/pedestrian path on one side of the road, and an equestrian trail on the other.
Committee members said the trail would not require any tax increase, nor would the government have to acquire property through eminent domain.
Planners continue to welcome public comment, which can be given through the Grand County Community and Economic Development Office website, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or, Levine said, “Talk to us in person,” at his office in the county building at 125 East Center St. in Moab.