The new tollbooth and control gate recently installed at the mouth of Middle Canyon is scheduled to open next Monday morning, according to Dave Brown of Tooele County Trails. The tollbooth has been on the planning board for more than a year. But if the tollbooth results in similar improvements seen at Settlement Canyon after a tollbooth was installed there more than 20 years ago, it will have been worth the wait.
As reported in the June 6 edition, Middle Canyon was opened for camping in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but without an operating tollbooth and control gate that has been in the works since last spring. Also, the canyon’s road was closed above White Pine campground to stop motorists and recreational vehicles from climbing to Butterfield Pass and to the Kennecott Copper Pit Overlook at the summit of West Mountain.
The cause of the closure, according to county officials, was because Salt Lake County had yet to open its road in Butterfield Canyon, which terminates at Butterfield Pass between Tooele and Salt Lake counties. Wet conditions from melting snowpack and spring storms contributed to the closure, too, they said.
The route to the overlook is still closed due to snow, but the canyon road to Butterfield Pass is now open, according to Brown. Middle Canyon’s campsites and trails can now be accessed from either Tooele City or Butterfield Canyon by thousands of users — the majority of whom have respect for property and the outdoors.
But regrettably, there are those who don’t.
Which is why we lauded the Tooele County Commission when it announced in March 2018 its intent to install a tollbooth and control gate at Middle Canyon. Four years prior, we wrote an editorial that urged the County Commission to install a tollbooth there like at Settlement Canyon to help improve land-use management and cut crime.
What we hoped for was a transformation the likes of which occurred in Settlement Canyon. The canyon was often hit by open dumping, vandalism and other unwanted crime. But after the tollbooth was installed, those problems mostly disappeared, and the canyon’s campsites and related venues grew in popularity.
Today, Settlement Canyon is typically sold out every weekend spring through fall, serving thousands of residents and visitors. It is a success story because the tollbooth created value and a way for canyon users to be monitored. Every vehicle and its occupants who enter the canyon at the tollbooth for day use or camping have to pay a fee and are documented, which helps to deter vandalism and other crimes.
But more importantly, Settlement Canyon is closed at night. Campers can leave as they wish, but through traffic is stopped until morning. Come Monday, the same will apply at Middle Canyon. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, through traffic will be prohibited.
Because of Middle Canyon’s close proximity to Tooele City, and quick access from Salt Lake County via Butterfield Canyon, the need for better stewardship of the canyon is essential to keep a valuable outdoor resource from becoming regrettably damaged because of unchecked use and abuse.
The tollbooth and control gate should help achieve that better stewardship, and many will benefit from the change, just like in Settlement Canyon.