City to extend shared-use path at Emma Boulevard

Trail past Swanny, Rotary parks may soon connect to Lions Park

This shared use path ends at this undeveloped section of Emma Boulevard. The city is exchanging land with a private party in order to extend the path. Photo by Doug McMurdo

The Moab City Council in the last meeting of July approved an ordinance that does a number of things, but ultimately it will lead to extending a shared use path from where it currently ends at Emma Boulevard to Highway 191 and then north to Highway 128.

There are a lot of moving parts in the effort, including the city vacating an undeveloped portion of Emma Boulevard in exchange for a portion of the UTEX subdivision.

The vote came down to Council Members Rani Derasary, Kalen Jones and Mike Duncan. Both Mayor pro tem Tawny Knuteson-Boyd and Member Karen Guzman-Newton recused themselves from participating and vacated the council chambers while the discussion was held. Newton lives near Emma Boulevard and Knuteson-Boyd has a relative who lives in the neighborhood. Neither of them stands to benefit financially from the project.

City Council member Rani Derasary

Derasary expressed frustration with the issue due to facts she said she couldn’t share with the public before ultimately agreeing to approve the project – with the caveat that it provides a larger public benefit – such as planting vegetation and installing shade structures and benches along the pathway.

She said the rules that prohibit elected officials from discussing issues addressed in closed sessions are a “really sucky part” of the job. “I can’t share information … but leaving it alone is not an option.”

Derasary said the path’s new connectivity will be good for the city, but she and others wanted to see more done to provide benefits to nearby residents – such as a community garden and the aforementioned shade structures, benches and native vegetation.

There is a possibility Emma will, in the future, be turned into a one-way street with a low speed limit.

City Engineer Chuck Williams noted a public hearing was held in mid-May. In response to public comments made at that meeting, the proposal was revised. The property owner involved in the exchange will dedicate 5,060 square feet of the parcel to the city for the shared use path that will ultimately connect to the path on the east side of Highway 191 with the west side that ends at Emma Boulevard.

In exchange, the city will grant the owner a private easement of nearly 8,000 square feet for purposes of ingress and egress, utilities, parking – and the development of a parking lot.

The Utah Department of Transportation, as part of its highway-widening project, has plans to install traffic controls similar to the pedestrian-activated crossing on Main Street at City Market. The traffic signal will allow cyclists, pedestrians and other path users to cross Highway 191.

When it is finished, walkers and cyclists will have a path to traverse Moab from north to south. The path will run continuously from Highway 313 to Rotary Park, also connecting to Lions Park and the shared use path along Highway 128 and the Colorado River.

The vote passed 3-0.