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Mountain Accord wants public input to direct the future of Wasatch Mountains

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 4:11 a.m. MDT

Motorists drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Deseret News) Motorists drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Deseret News)

MILLCREEK — A coalition of diverse groups united in hopes of coordinating the future of Utah's Wasatch Mountains and canyons is seeking the public's guidance.

The Mountain Accord invited Utahns who relax and recreate in the peaks above the Wasatch Front to weigh in on the group's four-pronged approach at preserving their vitality and accessibility. The group is focusing its efforts on transportation, environment, the economy and recreation.

Mountain Accord, still in its first year, is an alliance of more than 20 groups ranging from Ski Utah to Save Our Canyons, as well as local government and transportation representatives.

At two open-house style events, one in Park City and the other in Millcreek, representatives from the Mountain Accord invited the public to share their opinions by talking with them face to face, filling out a questionnaire or hanging notes on a conversation wall.

Salt Lake City resident Brian Doubek applauded the group's four areas of focus, calling them a logical way to approach the complex, multifaceted issues that come with managing the mountains. His concerns fell mostly under the environmental and recreation focuses.

Buses drive near Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Jeffrey_Allred, Deseret News) Buses drive near Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Jeffrey_Allred, Deseret News)

"I just hope that there is a thorough planning process implemented," said Doubek, who spends much of his time skiing, mountain biking and camping in the area. "It's hard to put all these concerns into just four categories. … But it makes sense to me. I can't think of any other method they could have done it with."

About 100 people attended the Park City gathering Tuesday, with more expected at the Millcreek event at Skyline High School on Wednesday. The conversation will continue online at Mountain Accord's website until March 7.

"It's about hooking them tonight," said Laynee Jones, Mountain Accord program manager. "Hooking them to know where our website is, know what we're doing, and then in two months we're going to go back out to the public, and we're going to want them to comment on more substance."

Buses wait for skiers in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Jeffrey_Allred, Deseret News) Buses wait for skiers in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Jeffrey_Allred, Deseret News)

After that, Mountain Accord will analyze the collection of opinions, mapping out common themes in the concerns or suggestions provided and whether the public supports the group's approach.

With that input, Phase 1 of the plan is making a blueprint of what areas should be preserved, where development should happen and which transportation corridors can tie it all together. After that, Phase 2 will be drafting an environmental impact statement to guide it all.

Despite the divergent opinions and priorities on Mountain Accord's executive board, the goal is to get as close to consensus as possible, Jones said.

Salt Lake City residents Jessica McCombs and Owen Carroll said their concerns dealt mostly with transportation, which ties into their hopes for improved air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. They said they hope the Mountain Accord will improve access to recreation areas.

Motorists drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Deseret News) Motorists drive in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Mountain Accord has been created and is a collaboration of government, business, private and special interest groups that have come together to work on long-term solutions for the transportation, recreation, economic and environmental issues facing Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Parleys canyons. (Deseret News)

"Lots of people nowadays are deciding not to have cars. A lot of my friends don't have cars, so they're on the bus and bikes, but it's not always easy to get to a lot of those places if you don't have access to a vehicle," McCombs said. "I'd like to see more options for public transportation into those areas."

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