If you want money, you need a plan.
That was Kim Clausing’s thought four years ago as she first embarked on a journey to build a coordinated network of active transport pathways through Tooele County.
The first half of her plan came to fruition on Dec. 4 when the Tooele County Commission adopted a Tooele County Active Transportation Plan as an addendum to the county’s general plan.
Active transport refers to movement using the body, such as biking, walking, running, jogging, or skating, according to Clausing.
“There are federal and state funding sources to help with active transport,” Clausing said. “But the first step of an application for funding is usually to show your adopted plan. It’s like borrowing money from a bank for a business. They aren’t going to give you money without seeing your business plan.”
A health educator with the Tooele County Health Department, Clausing was interested in active transport infrastructure as a way to combat obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems that collectively plague Tooele County citizens’ health, according to health department statistics.
While attempting to sell active transport to county and municipal leaders, Clausing found research that showed active transportation has an economic payoff for communities, too.
“Walking, jogging and biking are all growing in popularity in Utah,” Clausing said. “But in Tooele County, we don’t have a lot of resources for that kind of activity.”
Active transportation infrastructure is a “if you build it they will come” kind of thing in Utah, according to Clausing. According to a Utah Department of Health study, 70 percent of Utah citizens surveyed said they would use an active transportation trail system if they felt safe while using it, she said.
Four years ago, Clausing found a unique funding opportunity through the National Park Service. The NPS was accepting applications for grants to help communities with outdoor recreation programs, like trails. But instead of money, the NPS offered the services of a professional NPS employee to help communities develop plans for conservation and outdoor recreation.
“I tried Tooele County, Tooele City and Grantsville, but they weren’t interested,” Clausing said. “But the Stansbury Service Agency was interested.”
As a result, in 2015 the Stansbury Service agency developed a master plan for a series of trails to link the community’s currently-existing parks, schools and other community venues.
Accessible trail systems help get people started with outdoor activity because they make all levels of people feel comfortable instead of catering exclusively to serious outdoors enthusiasts who are willing to drive miles to trail heads of interest, according to Ken Richley, the National Parks Service’s landscape architect and community planner assigned to help Stansbury with its trail plan.
The next opportunity for Clausing came when the Utah Department of Health combined its diabetes prevention and control program, heart disease and stroke prevention program, and physical activity, nutrition and obesity program into one new environment, policy and improved clinical care program, known as EPICC.
“Through EPICC, we were able to get a $25,000 grant for Tooele County to begin work on an active transport plan,” Clausing said.
Using the $25,000 grant, Tooele County hired Salt Lake-based planning and engineering firms Township+Range and Parametrix to develop an active transport implementation plan.
In March 2018, an open house was held at the Stansbury Park Clubhouse to unveil the draft active transportation plan and receive community input.
The consultants met with the Tooele County Planning Commission in an open work session to discuss the active transportation plan in July 2018.
Additional funding from the Wasatch Front Regional Council allowed Tooele County to continue to work with the consultants to develop the detailed implementation plan that the County Commission adopted on Dec. 4.
At the heart of the county’s active transportation plan is a spine-like, 9-mile long, non-motorized trail that starts at Tooele City limits on 400 west and runs north to Erda Way. At Erda Way the trail runs east to Liddell Lane where it makes a slight jog to connect with Rabbit Lane and continues north on Stallion Way.
The trail next turns east onto Village Boulevard and heads north at Country Club Drive and continues north on Stansbury Parkway until it reaches state Route 138. The trail crosses state Route 36 at Mills Junction, and continues on the east side of SR-36 on Pole Road, Center Street, and Mountain View Road.
Plans for the 9-mile route consist of a multimodal pathway separated from roads by a buffer strip. In some places, such as at Rabbit Lane, which has already been closed to vehicular traffic, a separate pathway would not be needed.
Along with plans and designs for the 9-mile north-south route, the active transportation plan includes proposed changes to the county’s land use ordinance, which would require new developers to include active transport elements, such as sidewalks and bike paths, in their plans.
While Clausing’s initial intent was to improve the health climate of the county, her research into active transportation revealed that active transportation may be good for Tooele County’s economic health as well.
A study of the economic impacts of active transportation completed in March 2017 for the Utah Transit Authority found that property near active transport infrastructure increases in value.
Retail businesses near active transport routes experience an increase in business and some active transportation trails draw additional visitors.
The Murdock Canal Trail in Utah County costs $113,000 annually to maintain, but the trail generates over $3.6 million annually in economic impact, according to the study completed for UTA.
Businesses that are looking to relocate or expand into new communities often look for positive amenities, like walking and biking trails, for their employees, according to Clausing.
The UTA study pointed out another benefit of active transportation for businesses — decreased employee absences resulting in lower absentee related costs, increased productivity, and lower health care costs.
With the active transport plan adopted, Clausing now turns her attention to funding opportunities opened up by the adoption of the plan, but she hasn’t stopped planning.
“I would like to work with Tooele City to see if the trail can be extended to the south through the city,” she said. “And on the north end, the proposed extension of state Route 201 opens up possibilities to extend the trail to the Great Salt Lake area.”
The complete Tooele County Active Transportation Implementation Plan can be viewed at tooelehealth.org by selecting “health Promotion” from the menu bar and then scrolling down to reveal the hyperlink to the plan.