Posted by: ahypio | April 23, 2008

SOC wilderness Proposal

Save Our Canyons is proposing to add almost 30,000 acres to the existing wilderness areas in the Wasatch Mountains east of SLC. Normally I support the efforts of SOC to limit the abuse of the Wasatch but in this case I think they have gone too far. One of the main thrusts of the wilderness proposal is to protect the Mill D basin from further development. Apparently a developer has bought a large tract of land in the basin and is pushing for development of some Aspen, Colorado type trophy homes in the area. Currently there are various restrictions in place in the canyon that limit further development but SOC is worried that these restrictions can be rolled back by the deep pockets of the developers. SOC believes the only way to ensure future protection of the Mill D basin is to designate it a Federal Wilderness Area. As Mill D basin is too small of an area to designate it as a separate wilderness area it would need to be an added on to an existing wilderness area. This is where the problems arise. To connect Mill D basin to the existing Mt Olympus wilderness area they would need to stretch it across the existing Mill D hiking/MTB trail thereby closing it to MTB’s. I don’t think protecting Mill D basin from a possible development threat is worth closing Mill D trail to MTB’s.

Mill D is a longstanding and well-used bike route linking the middle of Big Cottonwood to the top of the Wasatch Crest Trail. It allows riders to make a loop ride of the Wasatch Crest, returning either via Dog Lake from Mill Creek, or descending directly from Desolation Lake. Without this loop option, a lot of riders are forced to shuttle: A car drives to the top of the canyon, then after the ride, another car drives to the top and two cars drive out. To exit Mill Creek (the only option if Mill D is closed), cyclists must dodge auto traffic riding out of Mill Creek or use another car to shuttle riders down that canyon. The result is more traffic and exhaust in BOTH canyons. Also since upper Mill Creek is only open to bikes on even days bike traffic that is normally spread out over both weekend days on Mill D would be compressed into one riding day in Mill Creek. This would result in even more trail congestion and hiker/biker conflicts. Closing the Mill D trail could also have a ripple effect of more bike restrictions in Mill Creek possibly ruining what is the best mid summer riding in the entire state. There are other plenty of other areas included in the wilderness proposal that I believe in protecting (such as keeping White Pine away from Dick Bass’s grubby mitts) but as long as the proposal includes Mill D I, and I believe most other MTB’ers can’t support it.

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