A decade or two ago, many people who moved to Sandy did so to buy a lot where they could keep and ride horses. But they were followed by many just-plain-suburbanites, and the "horse people" are now in the minority.
That fact is creating conflict as Sandy's City Council tries to decide how and where to create recreational trails within the city. Council members got an earful of the disagreement in a meeting Tuesday night with Bell Canyon area residents when officials asked for reactions to a proposed city trail plan.The officials outlined a plan that would include some sharing of trails by joggers, bikers and equestrians.
The trails that horse riders would share with other users, officials said, would run along 114th and 117th South, connecting north to Dry Creek Regional Park at 20th East, along the Salt Lake Aqueduct and along Wasatch Boulevard. From the park a trail would run along Dry Creek west to the Jordan River Parkway.
Developer Gordon Johnson said mixing horses with joggers and bikers won't work. Joggers and bikers don't like maneuvering around what horses leave behind, and horse riders don't like the paved surfaces that bikers prefer.
He also said horse trails should be planned to have the least possible impact on non-horse areas. He wants to keep equestrian trails away from his Pepperwood development, east of 20th East near 108th South, and another project between the Hidden Oaks and Hidden Valley Cove developments.
Johnson said he's been told by a real estate person that when a horse trail abuts a home in a neighborhood not zoned for horse lots, it reduces the property value by $10,000 plus the value of the land for the trail.
But Norm Sims, president of the Salt Lake Regional Trails Council and director of the Jordan River Parkway, challenged them to back up their assertions. He said he's spent more than 20 years planning and designing trails, and all the data he's seen show the trails are a boon to property values, not harmful.
He praised Sandy officials for worrying now about preserving areas for trails before the city is entirely developed. And he said the city proposal is the kind of plan the Regional Trails Council is encouraging all Salt Lake County cities to develop.
More than one resident who doesn't own horses nevertheless said the city owes it to riders to set aside land for trails.
"I don't think you can turn your back on the first people who came out here and started making this a prosperous and not just a sandy, windy area," said Connie Armitage.
Several residents questioned city officials' commitment to preserving space for trails. They said earlier officials expressed the same commitment concerning 13th East, then allowed development to occur in ways that have eliminated the possibility of a continuous trail.
Diana van Uitert told council members of a meeting two years ago in which she and other residents presented petitions with 450 signatures supporting recreational trails.
"Don't say, `If there's a need' and `If the people want it.' There is a need and the people do want it," she said. "We are afraid that we will go home tonight and in two years we'll be back here doing the same thing again."
Resident Bryan Taylor, who owns a horse and boards it near Dimple Dell Park, told the Deseret News equestrian trails are needed but not as many as the city is proposing - 20th East would be a sufficient connection to Dry Creek Regional Park. There's no need to run trails near developments like Pepperwood, where he lives, he said. As a mortgage banker, "I honestly feel that if a horse trail were to come through my back yard, it would depreciate the value of my property."