Last week we did a facebook post announcing that we were pleased to be a part of the new “Mountain Accord” plan that was unveiled on January 28. We went to the kickoff meeting of stakeholders in early January, and if you’ve had a chance to look at the Mountain Accord website you’ll see that the general idea is to bring literally all of the major stakeholders in the Central Wasatch – from the city, which relies on the water, to the towns up in the canyons, to the ski resorts, and -significantly – those same entities that make up the Wasatch Back to come up with a comprehensive plan for our beloved local range.
If you have been around here for a few years and spend any time in the Wasatch, you likely remember the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow process of a few years ago. This was a very public process to engage not only local goverments but also local citizens on how they currently engaged in the Wasatch and what they might want to see in the future. It generated a very impressive document that summarized the over 16,000 responses. So when we heard about the new Mountain Accord process, we had a natural question: why this, now, and whither the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow process?
Fundamentally, the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow process generated a good baseline of information, and from that an effort was put in to see how viable some of the preferred options might be. Since that time there have been engineers and planners actually determining the viability of – for example – putting trains up the canyons, running shuttle buses exclusively, building big parking structures at the mouths of the canyons, etc. Notably, however, the Wasatch Back was somewhat left out of that process, which of course -as we saw with the introduction of the Ski Link plan – is a critical component to managing the canyons. And also notably, the transportation studies shined a light on the fact that radically altering the canyons’ transportation options also had the potential to fundamentally alter the nature and character of the canyons themselves.
An inportant factor in this is the looming prospect of the associated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be a critical component of any plan that is put in place due to the copious amount of public land involved. The goal of the Mountain Accord is to identify ALL of the potential issues that will come up during the EIS process so that it can move through quickly. You might recall that the EIS process for the Legacy Highway took 10 years to settle. If it takes 10 years for the a comprehensive plan for the Wasatch to go through, we’ll be that much farther behind.
So while this may seem a bit like the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow revisited, we feel like this is an important step to take what was learned at that time – and, at the public meetings this coming week, reiterated by the likes of you! – and actually apply it to action. Yes, it’s yet another year long process, but in the grand scheme of things a year isn’t that long, especially if we can do some good planning.
So please take the time to flood the meetings this week at the PC High School (Tue night) and SkylineHigh School (Wed night) to remind the stakeholders what it is that the Wasatch Front and Back residents value. This will be a critical step in the forging of our future here.