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Foothill Trail system expansion in Salt Lake on hold, for now

Mahala Kephart and Kelly Goff walk Ding and Queenie on the Bonneville Shoreline Access Trail in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall plans to review the Foothills Trail System and pause building trails. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With more people moving into the Salt Lake Valley, it stands to reason that the Foothill Trail system developed and maintained by Salt Lake City officials would get more use.

And concern about that extra use is one of the reasons that Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced on Tuesday that expansion of the 65-mile trail system will remain on hold until at least June 2022.

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At a press conference at the entrance to the trails, Mendenhall cited the trail system’s proximity to the downtown area, which acts as both a help and hindrance to Salt Lake City officials who must balance the needs of the city with those of others who also admire and even love the land.

“Some areas in our Foothills Trail System are sacred to the Indigenous people who stewarded them for centuries,” said Mendenhall. “The Ute tribes, in particular.”

The goal of expanding the Foothills Trail system is to create more of what the mayor called “managed space” because she said Utah is one of the fastest-growing states in the country.

But the addition of more trails has been on hold since May when residents, tribal leaders and advocacy groups voiced concerns that the trails were scarring the land.  Others voiced concern that the trail enhancement didn’t follow a master plan, that it prioritized cyclists, and that the plans weren’t cognizant of the area’s Indigenous cultures.

Take us with you on the trails, download the KSL NewsRadio app for iOS

Since suspending the addition of new trails, the mayor said she’s spoken with Salt Lake City residents, nature enthusiasts, and, for the first time on this topic, tribal leaders.

“This pause is to put the environment first, and to work with environmental consultants to continue our collaborative work with our valued stakeholders,” Mendenhall said.

A review of what the mayor called “phase one” trails that have already been built is underway. 

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