The first round of public hearings on a master plan for Salt Lake County's canyons is over, but for planners the hard work continues.

Written comments can still be submitted to the county's planning division until Aug. 15, but after that date county planners and consultants will begin putting together a preliminary canyon master plan using public comments and background data developed so far.The preliminary master plan will be submitted to a 25-member citizens advisory committee in mid-September, and the committee will meet with planners twice in early October to offer their input.

Suggestions made by the citizens panel will be used to refine the preliminary document, which will be published in mid-October.

The preliminary plan will then go to the county planning commission for another round of public hearings. Comments received from those hearings will be used to develop the final canyon master plan, which will be submitted to the planning commission for a recommendation.

The final step in the long process, which is already 15 months old, is a last round of public hearings sometime late this year before the county commission, which has the final vote on the canyon master plan.

Planners have distributed nearly 5,000 response forms seeking public comments on key canyon master plan issues, said Calvin Schneller, county senior planner in charge of the plan project. They're hoping half of the forms will be returned with comments.

They're also hoping written responses will provide a broader focus of public input on canyon master plan issues than did the public hearings in late July and early August.

Those hearings were dominated by speakers supporting and opposing the so-called Ski Interconnect, a proposed series of trails and lifts to link Park City with Big and Little Cottonwood canyon ski areas.

Other key issues largely ignored during the hearings are short- and long-term transportation in the canyons, future ski area expansion, multiple use of recreation lands and how to protect water quality, access to public lands and the property rights of private landowners.