Courtesy of Jason Cowley
It’s that time of year when people get outdoors for entertainment and Utah County’s trail systems experience a boom in foot traffic. But with trail use comes a need to be responsible. This is a message that those who help maintain Valley Vista Trails are trying to get across to the public.
The Valley Vista trail system is located in the foothills of Mount Mahogany on the east side of Pleasant Grove and consists of approximately 12.3 miles of trails. It is a multi-use trail network used for non-motorized recreation including mountain biking, hiking, running, walking, and horseback riding.
The Valley Vista Trails aren’t the only recreational trails in the Utah Valley. There are many more, including Big Spring Hollow at the South Fork of Provo Canyon, Dry Canyon in Orem, Grove Creek Trail in Pleasant Grove, and Lambert Park in Alpine. Proper use of trails will help ensure they can continue to be used.
Former Pleasant Grove resident Jason Cowley, who helped plan and still helps maintain the Valley Vista trails, said three big issues were damaging the trails. “The first is when people use them when they’re muddy. Even when the gates are closed, we have people avoiding the gates or illegally crossing them to use the trails when they are wet,” he said. “The problem with this is that the trails were built to allow water to pass through them. This makes them more durable and maintains a more natural flow for water runoff. However, when people use the trails when “they are muddy, they leave ruts or bumps in the mud. When the mud dries, the clay soil bakes in these ruts and holes to a solid state which then changes the flow of water through the trails, creating major erosion problems.
Cowley said the second issue is that there has been an increase in access by motorized users. “Motorized use is completely prohibited in the foothills by all land managers and agencies,” he said. “This is due to many factors, including protecting water resources, protecting the environment, and supporting the design of the trail.”
Courtesy of Jason Cowley
In fact, recent damage has been caused by motorcyclists driving around barriers and ignoring signage. “Again, these trails were built to be durable, environmentally friendly, and low maintenance for non-motorized use. They are not built to withstand the impact of motorcycles and ATVs, and individuals currently breaking park rules are causing a lot of damage,” Cowley said.
Finally, there are times when trail users do not stay on approved trails and cross open terrain or deliberately construct new, unapproved connectors. “It obviously harms the environment and the park. When someone crosses open terrain, they leave a trail that subsequent users can see and think are part of the trail,” Cowley said. “It doesn’t take a lot of people to follow these unauthorized trails before they start to look like the approved trails. This confuses users, destroys vegetation, and can impact water drainage and durability.
“The most important thing anyone can do to keep the trails in good shape is to just obey the rules,” Cowley added. “In addition, we organize a few volunteer days throughout the year to take care of the maintenance. If people would like to come and help on these days, we would appreciate their support. Typically, our next big day for volunteering is National Trails Day, which is the first Saturday in June.
Find more volunteer opportunities and information about Utah County trails on the Utah Valley Trails Alliance Facebook page, traillink.com, Valley Vista Trails Facebook page, and utahcounty.gov .