Before too long, what has been described as "the most beautiful canyon in the state" may be open to the public if Provo City and Utah County officials have their way.
But South Fork residents aren't too happy with the idea."Would you be happy with 102 campers at your doorstep and all the traffic that comes with it?" asked South Fork resident Verna Offret.
Recent plans to develop the South Fork area above Vivian Park in Provo Canyon have been a point of controversy between the city - which wants to open the area up for everyone to enjoy - and residents who are afraid their neighborhoods will be invaded by motor homes if a proposed camping area is built.
As part of the Great Western Trail, Provo City plans to work with the U.S. Forest Service in developing the area to accommodate campers. The city owns a picnic site in the area and is working to change that into a camping area.
Provo City officials took the news media on a tour of South Fork and Big Springs Friday to show them what they plan to develop.
The Great Western Trail will go from Vivian Park up to Big Springs, over the top of the mountain ridge and down into Rock Canyon. The trail will be for hikers, horses, bicycles and cross-country skiers, but no motorized vehicles will be allowed.
"In the fall when the leaves change, it is the most beautiful canyon in the state," Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins said. "It shouldn't be a private preserve for a few people."
Officials plan to have the trail done next year and the campground completed the following year.
"That canyon is a tremendous asset to Provo City," Jenkins said. "Very few people have seen Big Springs. We need to open it up so more can see it and use it."
Jenkins said the city will make every effort not to disturb the area.
But Offret said the county does not plan to widen the road up through South Fork because it is a dead-end road. "It's barely a two-lane road now," she said.
City officials, however, say the county hasn't made a decision on widening the South Fork road because they have not formally become a part of the proposed development at South Fork.
Offret said residents are upset because neither the county nor city told them about their plans to develop the area until they "happened to find out by chance."
The area by Big Springs was closed in recent years because of the watershed, she said. Only those with permission were allowed to enter the area and now "all at once it is just fine to put a park over the watershed."