EDEN — The ability to safely combine exercise with jaunts to the grocery store, school or favorite eateries recently moved from “dream” to “done” in Ogden’s upper valley, thanks to a new path connecting Wolf Creek Resorts to the heart of Eden and beyond.

But the almost 2-mile stretch of asphalt that now runs along the east side of State Route 158 had been a long time coming.

“For years and years, everybody in our community and Wolf Creek have seen so many close calls … between the kids walking to school, wheelchairs and vacationers, it was really getting more and more dangerous,” said John Lewis, owner and developer of Wolf Creek Resort. “It seems like everyone talked about getting a path through there.”

But turning talk into action took a $50,000 pledge from Lewis to start the ball rolling.

“As soon as I did that, the (Weber) County commissioners jumped in and matched that amount. Then the state stepped in and matched our $100,000,” Lewis said.

The passing of three people close to Lewis — business partner Blair Lierd, and his mother Judy Lewis and brother Jim Lewis — also drove personal donations since all three shared the passion of making the path happen.

So in their memory, “we asked in lieu of flowers to have donations sent to the pathway,” Lewis said. “It’s been a tough two to three years, but they sure left their piece of a legacy.”

Community buy-in

For Miranda Menzies, a volunteer Weber Pathways board member who oversaw the project’s progress from start to finish, safety was the powerful motivator.

“A number of us saw a lady with a white cane who was blind walking along the shoulder, and that was more than we could stand,” Menzies said. The woman routinely vacationed in the area, as do thousands who come to recreate and enjoy the spectacular mountainside and nearby Pineview Reservoir.

“We were also seeing a number of road bikes and mountain bikes going up and down that road, and we wanted to collect the (slower) bikes going uphill. So that’s why it’s on the east side (of SR 158),” Menzies said.

But without support from the county, the Utah Department of Transportation, and other state funding agencies, the path would still just be a great idea on paper.

“That’s what made it possible,” Menzies said.

Partnerships in action

Charlie Ewert, principal planner for Weber County, outlined the path’s evolution from aspiration to asphalt.

“It’s been on our general plan for years, and we made sure it was made part of the new plan in 2016,” Ewert said. “We knew it was important. We’d seen pictures of people in wheelchairs going from Wolf Creek down to the grocery store in the lane of travel … it was a matter of time before someone got hurt.”

When UDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding came available, Weber County submitted an application on behalf of the proposed path.

According to Ewert, UDOT contributed $167,000 to the path, while the county pitched in about $140,000.

But Ewert credited the nonprofit Weber Pathways for day-to-day oversight of the project that grew in complexity as canals had to be rerouted and adjacent property owners needed to provide easements for the path’s placement.

“We have trail planning but no position in the county to execute that role,” Ewert said. “Weber Pathways has picked up a bulk of that load when it comes to managing the creation of new trails.”

According to Julia Heavirland, project manager for Weber Pathways, a Utah Outdoor Recreation grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development also supplied $150,000. The path’s final price tag exceeded $500,000, she said.

The 9,800-foot paved stretch bridges the gap between Wolf Creek Resort’s offices at 3718 N. Wolf Creek Drive and the four-way stop in Eden adjacent to Valley Market.

To Heavirland, it’s all about safe connectivity without cars.

“If people wanted to walk or cycle down to Eden, they had to use the paved road and that was extremely dangerous,” Heavirland said. “Now they can stay away from the traffic … and in addition to going to Maverik and Valley Market, it also connects with the greater network of trails up in Ogden Valley.”

Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer described the longstanding vision for walkable, bikeable paths throughout the scenic expanse that is home to three ski resorts.

“Even though this is a small addition in terms of distance, it’s a critical component that links the Eden area with Wolf Creek where so many people, both full-time and part-time, live,” Froerer said. “And it’s a crucial connector to all of Ogden Valley and the rest of the trails.”

Cathy McKitrick is a freelance journalist. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter (@catmck). She can also be reached at catmckit@gmail.com.

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