OGDEN — A new piece of federal legislation aims to advance the popular Bonneville Shoreline Trail — part of a plan that will ultimately connect the route from central Utah to the very northern reaches of the state.
The Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act, introduced by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, aims to free up about 326 acres of wilderness divided up over more than 20 small locations, to accommodate new construction of the existing trail and allow for mountain biking in areas where it’s currently prohibited. Essentially, the bill would adjust U.S. Forest Service management boundaries while also designating surrounding U.S. Forest Service land for permanent protection.
Most of the small parcels of land exist in Utah and Salt Lake counties, but the management adjustments are part of an effort to connect the trail from its southern end in Nephi to the Utah/Idaho border in Cache County, 280 miles to the north. The bill would also resolve a wilderness boundary issue in Birch Canyon in Cache County, ensuring the trail runs parallel to Birch Canyon Road and can be fully utilized as a multi-use trail. Currently, mountain biking is not allowed on some portions of the trail, including through Birch Canyon, because of forest service wilderness area designations.
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 ancient, glacial Lake Bonneville in Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Romney said as it’s been built up over the years, the trail has provided great outdoor recreational opportunities for Utahns, but the wilderness designated areas dotting the pathway are hampering full use of the trail.
“(This bill) would adjust the boundaries ... to ensure that the trail can be completed and fully accessible,” Romney said in a statement.
The legislation appears to have already garnered wide support.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the trail has the potential to be both a recreational asset and a teaching tool about the ancient Lake Bonneville.
According to the Utah Geological Survey, the lake existed between 14,000 and 32,000 years ago, covering about 20,000 square miles of 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.
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 have all publicly supported the bill.