Tooele County’s outback is renowned for its miles of trails and roads that provide ATV enthusiasts with exciting terrain and endless views of the Great Salt Lake Desert and distant mountains. It appears that acclaim may grow even more — with possible economic benefits for the county — if officials can overcome their differences.
As reported in last Thursday’s story, “New OHV trail system will circle Sheeprock Mountains,” final planning is underway for the Prospector Trail System, a 100-mile ATV loop on existing county roads and trails around the Sheeprock Mountains in southeastern Tooele County. The loop also dips into Juab and Utah counties.
The Prospector Trail System is reportedly a cooperative effort between Tooele, Juab and Utah counties, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Utah Parks and Recreation, and the state’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.
But still, after nearly two decades of discussions and planning, obstacles still remain that may postpone developing and promoting Prospector as one of Utah’s new ATV trail systems. A key obstacle is a disagreement between Tooele County and the BLM over the installation of information and directional signs.
Tooele County Commissioner Jerry Hurst contends the county shouldn’t have to wait to install signage on the trail because it utilizes county-owned and maintained roads. He also says ATV riders are already using Prospector and signage is needed now to declare trail rules and closed areas.
But Beckee Hotze, manager of the BLM’s Salt Lake Field Office, says although the federal agency is a proponent of the new trail system, signs can’t be erected until a cultural survey is completed to document archaeological, historical and cultural places that may exist beside the trail. According to her, to officially designate the Prospector Trail System, and install signage, represents a change of use for the roads. In this instance, federal regulations require that a cultural survey be performed first.
But the conflict doesn’t end there. There is evidently misunderstanding between county and BLM officials over the survey’s cost and timeframe. As reported in the story, Hurst understands the survey will cost $200,000 and may take more than two years to complete. Yet Hotze said it could be done for far less cost and time — if all parties involved are willing to pay for the survey. If not, the survey will compete for prioritized BLM funds and staff, a process that could take more than a year.
It would seem that county and BLM officials could easily resolve this conflict, but with so many interests and personalities involved, it is perhaps understandable as to why it has taken nearly 20 years for the project to reach this point.
Like the popular 1,000-mile-long Paiute Trail System in south/central Utah, which attracts thousands of ATV enthusiasts annually, the Prospector Trail System could evolve into an economic boon for the county, and especially Vernon, which is directly on the trail.
Tooele County has approximately 200 miles of developed and marked trails to offer residents and visitors. Prospector could put the county in the same league as other areas in the state with large trail systems. Such an initiative could mean additional tourism dollars and diversification of the county’s economy, both of which are needed and firmly encouraged.