Journey to a Path: Part 3

The third and final part of a series on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Utah

In parts one and two of this series, we looked at the progress being made on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST) and some of the Trail Champions that make it all possible. In this latest episode, we explore how land acquisition and a bill help break down barriers to completing BST.

Public Lands Closer to You

With the momentum around the BST and plenty of shovel-ready projects slated for 2022, it’s tempting to think that the end of this trail trip is just around the next throwback. However, according to Carrie Kasnicka, project manager at the Trust for Public Land (TPL), there are still some 1,500 unbuilt plots on around 200 miles of the BST that are critical to completing the trail.

The work of the TPL is centered on land acquisition. Several segments of the proposed TSB cross private property and pose a challenge to trail continuity. TPL is currently seeking 31 parcels of land identified as high priority by the US Forest Service (USFS) and engaging with landowners who may be interested in selling their land to the USFS. Parcel evaluation factors include equity, public safety, management and connectivity.

Kasnicka is currently working on three essential plots for the trail. Acquisitions will be made through federal and state funding mechanisms such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Utah Outdoor Recreation (UORG) statewide funding.

When asked how trail communities can engage in land acquisition to open up access to public lands, Kasnicka said there is no single plan. But, public education, knowledge of financing agents and a willing landowner always helps. She added that BPD can definitely help with each of these steps.

To date, TPL has closed 25 land acquisition projects on the BST and in Mount Zion National Park, bringing public lands closer to home for the one million Utah residents who call the BST their home. neighborhood trail.

Legislation for access to land

Private land is not the only obstacle to completing the TSB. Land management boundaries and small overlapping wilderness designation segments currently prohibit cycling on parts of the BST. IMBA has been working on legislation that adjusts land management boundaries to open up access to these areas and create connectivity.

In July 2020, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act (BSTAA) was introduced in Congress, in the House by Representative John Curtis and in the Senate by Senator Mitt Romney. The bill was then reintroduced in March 2021 with statements of support from over 30 individuals, companies and organizations including IMBA and TPL.

The BSTAA is adjusting land management boundaries to create connectivity for multi-use trails and to allow for the completion of the 280 miles of the BST. The legislation frees up 326 acres of Wilderness across more than 20 locations, to accommodate trail connections and sustainable trail development near population centers.

This isn’t the first time the Bonneville shoreline has been part of a bill. However, the BSTAA as a stand-alone bill helped bring unprecedented attention and support to the track. With an increasing mileage of trails built and a growing demand for outdoor recreation, the BSTAA coupled with land acquisition could be the missing piece that helps complete this world-class long-distance trail.

Building relationships

The IMBA took the lead from the BSTAA. While it takes knowledge of the legislature and advocacy experience to draft and pass a bill, IMBA Policy Officer Aaron Clark attributes the BSTAA’s success so far to the relationships established by the IMBA’s government affairs team over the years.

“In 2014, the IMBA was working closely with Congressman Curtis’ office on an omnibus package included in the Utah public lands package, and I was on the phone with Curtis regularly to review aspects of the bike mountain in the legislation. When we were done with all of the package related stuff, one of the Curtis staff members asked, “Is there anything else we can do for you for mountain biking? We really enjoy working with you.’ And that’s how we started on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail,” Clark explained.

He added: “It’s really about building relationships. We’ve also worked closely with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee and Trails Utah, organizations that have strong ties to locals who champion these neighborhood trails, as well as many other groups. For other trail communities across the country that want to do the same, I would tell them to keep building relationships, even when you think you don’t need them.

dream big

Getting trails in the field can seem like a daunting task. But the good thing about singletrack that doesn’t magically appear in the woods is that there’s a place for you in the process. Whether you’re a mountain biker, community organizer, outdoor advocate, landowner, or member of a trail community, you can help turn the land into trails.

Bonneville Shoreline is an example of what is possible for long-distance trails across the country. Through this series, we have found that the elements that have contributed to BST’s success thus far can be found or cultivated in every trail community. As for the communities that are about to begin the long journey, Clark says the first step is to dream big.

“Communities across the country can look at BST and say, if they can do it in Utah, maybe we should look at our landscape a little differently,” Clark said. “If they’ve always seen a piece of land as something inaccessible, maybe they can see how legislation can open doors – how working with land management agencies can provide access. Dreaming of big changes in the way you do your work and where your advocacy is applied. »

A hiker and his dog enjoy the view of the BST. Photo courtesy of Carrie Kasnicka.

Wiley C. Thompson