The first item on Tuesday’s Work Meeting agenda relates to the preservation of Rock Canyon. Over a period of decades, citizens, elected officials, and a group called the Rock Canyon Preservation Alliance have worked to preserve Rock Canyon for present and future generations. This item features the Alliance presenting its proposal to use a tool called a conversation easement to strengthen legal protections for the canyon. Alliance Chair Ginger Woolley states that “I think it’s important for the Council to know that the donors who made it possible for Provo City to obtain this land were promised a conservation easement. It was part of the original agreement when we (Rock Canyon Preservation Alliance and Provo City) were mapping out the ways to finance this acquisition. This was extremely important to many of the donors.”
Some city officials have posited that trading the land to the Forest Service would offer a similar level of protection. This method has an advantage in that the city could receive valuable land from the Forest Service in exchange. For example, if a developer with a compelling project came along that offered to buy the land where the current golf course is situated, the city has contingency plans to move the golf course to Provo Canyon. However, that would require getting some land from the Forest Service. The Forest Service won’t sell its property to the city but might be willing to trade it in exchange for the Rock Canyon Trailhead property the city owns.
An important aspect of the discussion Tuesday will be whether Forest Service ownership of the land would provide an equivalent level of protection as a conversation easement. If the protection is equivalent, or nearly so, another question is whether getting a conversation easement now would preclude the option to trade the land to Forest Service in the future – or would they no longer be interested in bringing the land under their protection if a conversation easement was in place. A third question is if donors would feel that going that route honored the spirit of the promises made to them.
The second Work Meeting agenda item Tuesday is a related item concerning the master plan for the Rock Canyon Trailhead. The plan was created by a committee consisting of city staff, Project Engineering Consultants (PEC), and the Rock Canyon Preservation Alliance. The plan focuses on development of the trailhead with an eye toward preservation, education, and recreation. The initial estimate of the cost to implement the current plan is $1.5 million.
On May 13, I hiked from the Rock Canyon Trailhead to the top of Squaw Peak with a friend. The first part of the trail follows and crisscrosses the river shown in the pictures above. The beautiful trail we hiked has been characterized as containing one of the few remaining “urban forests” in the United States which is easily accessible and free for public use. The day my friend and I went, the parking lot was full and we saw many hikers enjoying the beauty of the trail.
When my friend, Dan Southwick, and I reached the top of Squaw Peak, the views of Provo and Utah Valley below were spectacular. We enjoyed the beautiful surroundings during our hike through the Rock Canyon Trail and on up the mountain. The top was a wonderful place to pause, renew our perspective, and ponder our blessings as individuals, families, and as a community.