SALT LAKE CITY — Two groups of riders headed out early Saturday to forge 50-plus miles on the newly joined Golden Spoke Trail, which spans 106 miles through 34 cities from Ogden to Provo.
The bikers started in Ogden and Provo and met in the middle, on the Jordan River Parkway bridge near 1206 W. 200 South, where they drove the "golden spoke" into a wheel made up of spokes from each city that is now connected by the trail.
"What a beautiful day for a bike ride," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who on Saturday commemorated the completion of the Golden Spoke Trail, portions of which contribute to the state's goal of creating 1,000 new miles of family friendly trails across Utah in the next 10 years.
With the conjunction of six trail systems, the Golden Spoke Trail becomes the longest continuous, multi-use urban trail network west of the Mississippi River.
"This is quite a feat," Herbert said, adding that the collaboration required from multiple cities to join the trail system, and to improve the health, safety and quality of life for Utahns is "the Utah way."
"This is an amazing asset for our communities, a way to get out and be healthy," said Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, who joined the group riding from his city to downtown Salt Lake City.
Utah Department of Transportation Director Carlos Braceras said biking, or active transportation, "is a very important mode for Utahns." The agency helps communities plan for trails and paths to accommodate more active transportation, which he said is a growing trend all over the country, but especially in Utah.
"If you tie trails together, people will use them," Braceras said, adding that more bikers means fewer cars on Utah roads, which also leads to a decrease in air pollution.
"When the word gets out, people will come to Utah for our cycling tourism," he said.
A few hundred cyclists joined in the rides from Provo and from Ogden, leaving as early as 5:30 a.m. on Saturday to pedal 57 and 47 miles respectively to join in the public celebration connecting all the gaps along the trail systems.
"It was great to be able to ride across the entire valley and see more of it along the way," said Savana Lee, 19, an avid cyclist who generally enjoys a more challenging ride but had "fun" riding long-distance on the "mostly flat" Golden Spoke Trail with her brother and dad on Saturday.
"It was fantastic," said Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn, who rode 47 miles from Ogden. "You can't beat a bike ride with great friends on an awesome trail system that allows all walks of life to get out and enjoy the day."
Golden Spoke, Millburn said, is a play on the state's historic Golden Spike, which was the final spike driven to connect the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, creating the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States in May of 1869 at Promontory Summit, west of Brigham City.
"You can get on and off the trail wherever and each community along the way ties into it, providing an opportunity for citizens to be engaged and connected to each other and to activities in other cities," Millburn said.
While cities didn't set out to combine trail systems 30 years ago, it eventually became a priority, said Tom Adams, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation. He said there is talk of extending it to Heber and Midway and beyond.
The systems now connected include the Ogden River Parkway, Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail, Legacy Trail, Jordan River Trail, Murdock Canal Trail and the Provo River Parkway. A map of the system can be found online, at www.goldenspokeutah.org.
Millburn said the ability to improve trails was made possible by Proposition 1, approved by voters in 2015 along the Wasatch Front in Davis, Weber and Tooele counties, but not in Salt Lake, Utah or Box Elder counties. In the counties where it passed, Proposition 1 raised sales taxes by a penny for every $4 spent for various transportation needs, including trails.
It is estimated that the more-than-100-mile trail network, which was developed over the last 30 years, might have cost more than $500 million to build and connect.9 comments on this story
The final gaps along the Golden Spoke trail network were completed in 2017, including the $6.7-million, 120-foot arch bridge on the Jordan River Parkway.
Federal, state and local leaders have committed more than $200 million to expand and enhance the network during the next five years.
"It's really, really, really unique what we've built here," said Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, who met a goal of riding his bike to work every day of 2014. "It could only happen in Utah, where we are open to collaboration and working together."