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Utah’s Congressional delegation again advocating for state’s Bonneville Shoreline Trail

By Mitch Shaw standard-Examiner - | Mar 31, 2021

OGDEN — A previously stalled piece of federal legislation that would extend and improve the popular Bonneville Shoreline Trail has been reintroduced by two members of Utah’s Congressional Delegation.

The statute, which is part of a plan that will ultimately connect the route from central Utah all the way to the state’s northern border, is known as the “Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act.” Crafted by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, the bill includes a measure to clear more than 300 acres of wilderness area spread over some 20 different locations, allowing for continued construction of the trail and authorizing mountain biking in areas where it’s now considered illegal. The bill would adjust U.S. Forest Service management boundaries and designate surrounding U.S. Forest Service land for permanent protection.

Romney said the trail provides great outdoor recreational opportunities, but noted that “several wilderness-designated areas along the trail are hampering full use.” Curtis said with Utah’s population continually growing, there will be a need for more widely accessible outdoor activities. He said the legislation balances creating new recreational opportunities with protecting the environment.

Most of land identified in the bill is in Utah and Salt Lake counties, but the management adjustments are necessary to ultimately connect the trail from its southern terminus in Nephi to the Utah/Idaho border in Cache County. A fully connected and completed trail would span 280 miles through Utah. The bill also would fix a wilderness boundary issue in Birch Canyon in Cache County, keeping the trail parallel to the nearby Birch Canyon Road where it can function as a multi-use trail. Mountain biking is not presently allowed on some portions of the trail, including through Birch Canyon, because of forest service wilderness area designations.

Though another version of the bill stalled last year, the legislation appears to have wide support.

“The (BST) is a decadeslong project with both recreational and historical significance,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. “It has the potential to be both a beautiful recreational asset for Utah residents and a tool for teaching us about ancient Lake Bonneville and Utah’s fascinating geologic history.”

According to the Utah Geological Survey, Lake Bonneville was a vital piece of the West’s geology some 30,000 years ago. At about 20,000 square miles, the ancient lake covered western Utah and smaller portions of eastern Nevada and southern Idaho. At its largest, the lake was about 325 miles long, 135 miles wide and had a maximum depth of over 1,000 feet.

The UGS says fish inhabited the lake and amphibians, waterfowl and other birds lived along its marshes. Buffalo, horses, bears, rodents, deer, camels, bighorn sheep, musk oxen and mammoths also relied on the lake. Humans arrived in the Lake Bonneville Basin about 10,000 years ago, according to the agency.

The pending legislation also has public backing from several outdoor recreation groups. Trails Utah, the Utah High School Cycling League, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee, the Outdoor Alliance, the Trust for Public Land and the International Mountain Bicycling Association all support the bill.

According to bonnevilleshorelinetrail.org, the concept for the route began in 1990 as a way to provide a widely accessible mountain biking, jogging and walking pathway on the western slopes of the Wasatch Mountains, near the shoreline bench of the lake in Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties.

“There are many obstacles in completing the entire envisioned trail which is still only about halfway complete,” said John Knoblock, chairperson on the BST Committee. “The (legislation) is important to overcome one of those obstacles by adjusting wilderness boundaries so that mountain bikes can use the entire trail as originally envisioned. … The mountain bike community is a large and important user group.”

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