Salt Lake Valley residents love the recreational opportunities nearby Wasatch canyons provide. But many canyon facilities now are so heavily used that expanded or new facilities are needed to accommodate future demand.

In Mill Creek Canyon, heavy use has already caused environmental damage that must be corrected to maintain the quality of recreation there.Those are two, often overlooked conclusions drawn by planners in the preliminary draft of Salt Lake County's Wasatch Canyon Master Plan.

A citizens' advisory committee recently reviewed the draft. The committee's suggestions will be incorporated into a preliminary master plan that will be the subject of a Nov. 22 public hearing.

While much attention has focused on the so-called Ski Interconnect, ski area expansion and environmental issues in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, the need for more recreational facilities affects nearly all the canyons east and northeast of the Salt Lake Valley.

Local residents hike, bike, jog, picnic, camp and ski in the canyons. As the valley's population grows, and as those and other canyon activities increase in popularity, the pressure on existing facilities will be greater.

While the draft makes no blanket recommendations to solve the problem, it does identify specific issues in each canyon and offers direction on long-term resolution of concerns.

In Mill Creek Canyon, the draft concludes, heavy day use of picnic sites is beyond the canyon's natural ability to sustain its environment and has led to deterioration of ground cover and terrain.

Salt Lake City plans to build a water treatment plant at the canyon mouth by 1998 to utilize its water rights. Measures should be implemented immediately to rehabilitate the canyon, maintain the quality of recreation and anticipate the use of the stream for culinary water, the draft says.

Among the rehabilitation measures recommended: the Boy Scouts should reduce the intensity of their use of Camp Tracy; fees and reservations should be required for the use of picnic sites; some areas should be reseeded; and the feasibility of mass transit with park-and-ride staging in the valley during high-use periods should be explored.

Here's a canyon-by-canyon look at non-ski-related recreation issues identified by the draft.

- Emigration Canyon. While the primary use for the canyon is private residences, access to public lands must be preserved. Development of camping and picnic sites is encouraged, as is development of staging areas for recreational activities on public lands.

A traffic plan should be developed and implemented to reduce congestion likely to result from further residential development and expanded recreational use of the canyon. Bike and jogging lanes should be developed.

- Parleys Canyon. With completion of Little Dell Dam scheduled in 1992, recreational facilities should be developed for picnicking, hiking, jogging fishing and non-motor boating. Camping and picnic sites in Affleck Park and Lambs Canyon should be expanded.

Expansion of Mountain Dell golf course and the overlaying cross country ski track are recommended. Construction of permanent new facilities for major sporting events should occur only if they fill long-term recreation needs. Mass transit should be used to shuttle spectators to those event sites from valley staging areas.

- Little Cottonwood Canyon. White Pine Canyon should be retained in its natural state for use by hikers, back-country skiers and others, and as a buffer between developed ski areas and the Lone Peak Wilderness Area.

- Big Cottonwood Canyon. Public acquisition of private lands on a case-by-case basis is encouraged to ensure public access to trails and back-country areas and to maintain the canyon in its natural state for long-term public enjoyment.