Bonanza Flats could see new paid parking system, increased Transit to Trails program

They are recommending a paid parking pilot program with a $10 flat fee, and free residential rates via license plate registration.

PARK CITY, Utah — Park City Municipal is reviewing updates to the Bonanza Flat Adaptive Management Plan in the upcoming city council meeting on June 6, which could impact parking and trail access for the popular recreational area.

The Utah Open Lands (UOL) and Trails & Open Space team suggest continuing with the current management strategies. However, alternative measures include a seasonally implemented paid parking program at Bloods Lake, Bonanza Flat, and Empire trailheads, as well as enhancements to the Transit to Trails reservation system to prioritize residents.

Since Park City acquired the 1,350-acre Bonanza Flat Open Space in June 2017, the area has expanded to 1,550 acres. The Bonanza Flat Conservation Easement and Adaptive Management Plan was adopted in January 2020. Multiple agreements and funding sources have facilitated trail and trailhead improvements.

On October 5, 2023, the City Council approved the final phase of multi-use and WOW connection trails (The WOW trail connects Park City with Midway and Heber City), focusing on safe trail crossings of Pine Canyon Road and addressing parking management and overuse issues at the “Church of Dirt.” They also considered paid parking and permit options to prioritize resident access.

The UOL’s review found no imbalance in conservation values due to current recreational access. They are recommending a paid parking pilot program with a $10 flat fee, and free residential rates via license plate registration. Enhanced enforcement options include additional patrols or manned kiosks. The recommended traffic mitigation options would require more funding for the paid parking pilots and expanded Transit to Trails program.

In contrast, long time resident of High Bonanza / Brighton Estates Ray Bloxham, who also works for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has expressed his concerns ahead of the meeting in a letter to Mayor Worel and the Park City Council. The letter urges them to reconsider new trail approvals within the Bonanza Flat Conservation Area. He argues that new trail constructions, such as the WOW connection trail, prioritize recreation and development over the conservation of natural resources. Bloxham believes that these developments lead to significant wildlife disruption and other unforeseen consequences, which he says are contrary to the objectives of the Bonanza Flat Adaptive Management Plan.

“Too often, and again with proposed location of the WOW connection trail, new construction through natural, rugged and the wild landscape is valued more than conservation of our Wasatch Mountain’s wild landscapes,” Bloxham stated, emphasizing the need for a pause on new constructions within the Conservation Area, and suggesting alternative routes that would not impact the preserved land.

Bloxham also suggested an alternative route through the 45th Star Preserve, which would connect to the WOW Trail without impacting the Conservation Area stating, “The WOW connection trail’s location within the Conservation Area’s landscape is not the sole option or only viable option … We do not need to impact a landscape acquired for conservation when we have locations that serve as alternatives.”

Bloxham urged the council to prioritize the protection of the Conservation Area, stating that wildlife needs a few quiet corners left in the Wasatch free of introduced recreation. He called for a pause on new construction through the Conservation Area, proposing that alternative trail developments should be considered first, then reassessing the need to impact the Conservation Area at a later date if there is an overwhelming necessity.

The June 6 meeting will be accepting public comment for the discussion, providing a platform for voices to be heard regarding the future of the Bonanza Flat Conservation Area and its management.

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