Forest Service proposes to sell its Olympus Cove property

Published: Thursday, Sept. 30 2010 12:34 a.m. MDT

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to sell the first portion of property at Olympus Cove, located at 4900 S. Milehigh Drive.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

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OLYMPUS COVE — The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to sell a chunk of land along the boundary of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service — open land that has been in the cross hairs of controversy because of competing interests.

Some residents near the 5.75 acres of triangular property at 4900 S. Milehigh Drive (3375 East) in Olympus Cove do not want more residential development to come in or to see full-fledged accommodations for access to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail — such as dozens of parking spots, public restrooms and the like.

Outdoor enthusiasts, in contrast, have insisted for years that the ability to access the popular trail should not be hindered by private development, a position bolstered by Salt Lake County's efforts to acquire the land.

Under the Forest Service proposal, the land will be put up for competitive sale at market value, with a nod to a memorandum of understanding reached with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Coalition. That agreement supports access to the trail in concept, which has been part of the county's master planning efforts for the trail. The Forest Service, as part of the sale, goes a step further and will also require the purchaser to grant an easement for public access and limited trailhead parking along the existing road.

"I recognize that converting the use of the land from open space to potential residential development is of concern to a number of residents," wrote Brian Ferebee, forest supervisor of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service, in the decision.

"The decision to provide for a short section of the (Bonneville Shoreline Trail) and trailhead has been one of the most difficult and controversial aspects of this project. We have heard very clearly from a number of community residents about their concerns of granting easements for the potential construction" of a portion of the trail and trailhead, he said.

At the same time, the Forest Service has received public support for the easements and has been urged to provide access to agency lands, Ferebee said, adding that much of that access has been eroded over the years by private residential development. The sale will provide a forest "boundary" that better delineates natural open space from the urban environment, the supervisor said.

Additionally, he said the sale of the land will help the federal agency pay for a facility that will add to storage capability of fire engines and related equipment, and also help reduce administrative costs over the long run.

Although Salt Lake County was at one point the intended "direct" purchaser of the land for an open space acquisition, it withdrew its status because of other, higher priority open space needs.

Angelo Calacino, park development project manager for Salt Lake County's department of Parks and Recreation, said much of the resistance to more fully developed access to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail has hinged on neighborhood fears that any development would be overblown — room for 20 cars and a public bathroom.

"That has never been our intent," he said. The county's goal has always been to maintain access and make some improvements, he added.

The Forest Service decision is subject to appeal to the regional forest service agency headquartered in Ogden. Appeals are due within 45 days and can be hand delivered to the office, at 324 25th St., or e-mailed to: appeals-intermnt-regional-office@fs.fed.us.

Appeals are open to those who submitted comments during the scoping period held from Aug. 13 to Sept. 12, of 2009.

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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