Chalk one up for the granola crunchers: The yearslong effort by residents of a tiny, gated community to stop a Bonneville Shoreline Trail route met its end Tuesday.
Shoreline trail supporters filled the Salt Lake City Council chambers to overflowing in a public hearing Tuesday regarding whether to put part of the trail just behind the exclusive North Cove development north of the state Capitol.The four residents who spoke out against the route were buried in an avalanche of more than 30 people who spoke in support of the trail, plus 42 more who submitted written comments.
"It was pretty one-sided," Councilwoman Joanne Milner mused after the two hour-plus hearing.
After the hearing, council members voted unanimously to approve the proposed route.
Technically, they approved a proposed amendment to the open space master plan moving part of the Steiner-Centennial section of the trail route from an originally planned route lower down the mountain.
North Cove residents had argued that the trail would violate their privacy, that it would present "an ideal avenue for criminal infiltration," in the words of their attorney, Gerald Kinghorn, and that, had they known the trail would go in there, they would never have purchased North Cove lots.
The developers of North Cove had agreed to grant the city easements for the trail in 1991, when they carried out a land swap with the city to accumulate enough land for the development.
In 1992, the City Council adopted the open space master plan, which pinpointed the location of the trail. Notwithstanding the agreement with the developers, however, the exact route of the trail running behind North Cove was not put into the master plan, and the developers didn't inform lot buyers of it.
Believing they already had legal authority, city officials contracted with the U.S. Forest Service to build the trail in the area, which the Forest Service began in the spring of 1995. But North Cove and Avenues residents started rattling legal sabers, and the partially complete construction was halted shortly thereafter.
The city had to amend the open space master plan to make the route legal, and what with going through the Planning Commission, parrying further challenges by North Cove residents, dealing with an alternative route proposed by the homeowners that took the trail much farther up City Creek Canyon and the mountain, taking field trips and conducting public hearings, it took three years to do so.
North Cove residents did not exactly ingratiate themselves with the community. Some speakers at Tuesday's public hearing said the North Cove residents were being snobbish, that they didn't want to live by the same rules as other residents who had public access routes - roads, sidewalks - just a few feet away from their property lines.
"(North Cove residents) do not have the right to limit the use of abutting city property," former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson said.
The North Cove attitude that trail hikers and bikers would bring in a criminal element also did not go over well. Houses in North Cove are very large, with multiple-acre lots, prompting a feeling among trail advocates of rich-folk privileges against rights of the common person.
The city had changed the route of the shoreline trail in two other places where it came close to residences, but planners said circumstances in those cases were different.
The partially constructed Bonneville Shoreline Trail is intended to run the length of the Wasatch Front, primarily at the waterline of ancient Lake Bonneville.