How This ‘Little Trail That Could’ Aims to Change Salt Lake Recreation and Transit

Brian Tonetti and Evelyn Lamb ride the Folsom Trail in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City and the Federal Transit Administration have completed the first phase of the trail, a one-mile paved shared-use trail for walking and biking that connects West Side neighborhoods to North Temple Station from UTA. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — City leaders saw potential in a small 1.5-mile section of the Union Pacific Railroad line when the company abandoned it amid a realignment of the route to the north end of Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood in 2008.

They saw the suddenly available line as the perfect short trail that could connect Salt Lake City’s west side to downtown and transit areas. The line also opened up a new option to help improve stormwater infrastructure and add green space along the route.

However, turning the railway into the Folsom Trail did not happen overnight. It took more than a decade of study, design and fundraising until it came to fruition on Tuesday, as Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Utah Transit Authority officials and local business owners gathered at the western terminus of the trail to officially open the first mile of the new trail.

“It’s the little trail that could,” Mendenhall said. “Not just because it pays homage to this trail’s former life as a rail corridor, but because this project has been steadily moving forward for an entire decade – and we’re not done.”

The new Folsom Trail may not look big, but it’s an important part of transportation, said Carlton Christensen, chairman of the board of the Utah Transit Authority. The 10-foot-wide paved trail connects UTA’s North Temple FrontRunner and TRAX stations at 1000 West at Folsom Avenue (40 South), which is about a block or two east of the popular Jordan River Parkway Trail.

Its importance is due to the many transportation barriers that separate the West Side of Salt Lake City from the rest of the city, especially in the Poplar Grove neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks about the Folsom Trail in Salt Lake City.  The Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City and the Federal Transit Administration have completed the first phase of the trail, a one-mile paved, shared-use walking and biking route that connects West Side neighborhoods to North Temple Station. from UTA and transit across the Wasatch front.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks about the Folsom Trail in Salt Lake City. The Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City and the Federal Transit Administration have completed the first phase of the trail, a one-mile paved, shared-use walking and biking route that connects West Side neighborhoods to North Temple Station. from UTA and transit across the Wasatch front. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The area has basically been blocked off for decades due to railways, highways and industrial enterprises. It is difficult for residents to walk or cycle safely because of these issues. It also made it difficult for people who wanted to travel west safely to the Jordan River Parkway.

“Due to a lot of industrial and railway uses in the area, there just wasn’t a good connection,” Christensen explained.

The federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation grant program has provided UTA with $20 million for various projects, including $3.5 million for the Folsom Trail. Salt Lake City provided “additional funds” using a combination of impact fees, transportation sales tax, and money from the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency.

City leaders and Utah transit officials believe the trail helps bridge that divide, allowing residents and recreation enthusiasts to get around safely by bicycle or any form of non-motorized transportation. without having to share the road, which deters some people from riding in the area. It matches other east-west trails in the city, such as the larger 9 Line and Parley trails.

While the Folsom Trail is finally open, the project is far from over. Future plans call for an extension of the trail to complete the section of abandoned trail between 1000 West and the Jordan River Parkway by the Fisher Carriage House, which is being converted into a sponsored river recreation and engagement center by the city.

This map shows the path of the current Folsom Trail as well as a future addition that is part of Salt Lake City's long term plans.  The extension is among the projects that a proposed $80 million bond would help fund.
This map shows the path of the current Folsom Trail as well as a future addition that is part of Salt Lake City’s long term plans. The extension is among the projects that a proposed $80 million bond would help fund. (Photo: Salt Lake City Society)

A portion of Mendenhall’s proposed $80 million parks bond for the trail would be used to acquire the right-of-way through private land between the trails and complete the trail, city officials told KSL. com.

City planners, in coordination with the nonprofit Seven Canyons Trust, are also designing sections of City Creek that will be lit along the trail. The creek runs underground parallel to the trail in the area, but has been buried underground for decades due to past industrial use of the area and previous municipal policies.


Our access to open space and recreation and the ability to get out and have a good time is limited, given our built space. The construction of trails and corridors like this is therefore an essential element of the quality of life of the Salt Lakers.

–Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall


Mendenhall said the daylighting project will help transform the Folsom Trail into much-needed green space to beautify the historically industrial part of town, as the population of downtown Salt Lake City is expected to double in the next few years.

“We’re adding incredible density,” the mayor said. “Our access to open space and recreation and the ability to get out and have a good time is limited, given our built space. So building pathways and corridors like this is a critical part of the quality of life of the Salt Lakers.”

There is no timeline yet for when crews plan to start lighting the creek.

Meanwhile, all of the changes are good news for residents and small business owners, said Rico Brands founder Jorge Fierro. He was recently forced to relocate his business, but this coincidentally led him to a location also adjacent to the Folsom Trail.

Fierro sees the trail as a way for his employees to get around in a different way if they want to, as well as something that reinforces the west side of the city.

“The West Side needs a bit (loving care) and I think the city is really, honestly doing everything it can to be able to do that in such a great way,” he said. , before cutting the ribbon to signal the opening of the trail. “I know, for a fact, this is going to be amazing for the economy on the west side.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning journalist who covers general news, the outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah via Rochester, New York.

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