Millcreek neighbors get into traffic jam over Grandeur Peak parking problems

Grandeur Peak Trailhead is giving Millcreek residents a congestion headache.

Neighbors clashed Tuesday during a Salt Lake County Council meeting over how to handle parking near the popular spot, weighing in on options to alleviate the problem.

The trailhead — which offers access to Grandeur Peak, the Shoot the Tube aqueduct and dog trails — has a small parking lot, leading many trailgoers to park along residential streets in the area when the lot is full.

Last summer, the county began a yearlong pilot program that blocks visitors from parking along Warr Road, Cascade Circle and part of Cascade Way. Residents have parking permits and may obtain extra ones for their guests, but as the pilot program comes to an end, community members are split over how to proceed.

Many residents wore "I'm for parking" stickers at Tuesday's meeting and want to make the permit parking permanent. Neighbors said that before the tags were introduced, trailgoers were parking in front of residents' driveways, using their water spigots and leaving trash in their yards. The permits, they say, have changed all that.

Greg Koon said he saw several drug deals in front of his house before the pilot program. One time, he recounted, two people were arguing over the price of methamphetamine in a car outside his house. When they couldn't agree, he said, they pulled guns on each other. Since the signs restricting parking were put up in the neighborhood, though, Koon says he has not seen any drug deals.

"[We are] asking to live in a typical, quiet neighborhood, too," he said.

Other community members expressed varying safety concerns during the meeting. The streets leading up to the trailhead are narrow, they said, so only one car can move up or down the hill when the sides are lined with cars. Visitors also, according to community members, would park in front of fire hydrants and even set a hill on fire.

"We love the fact that we live next to open space, but we need to manage our streets," said Jemina Keller.

Not all area residents, however, would like to see permit parking continue.

Clay Northrop said preserving the open space in the area was meant to benefit all county residents, "not just those who can walk to" the trailhead.

The real issue, he said, is not parking along the streets; it is a lack of parking at the trailhead. Permit parking, he said, only pushes the issue down a few blocks.

Terra Reilly agreed.

"My concern right now is three things: access to the trailhead, impact on neighbors and, frankly, exclusive enforcement," Reilly said. The people who use the trail are there to have fun, "and that idea of fun is a big part of Salt Lake City."

Many people come into the area to enjoy the outdoors, she says, which contributes to recreation and tourism industries in the state. But the parking permits, she says, create a feeling of exclusivity on the trails.

"Don't cut off access to something that is quintessentially Utah," Reilly said.

Councilman Steve DeBry said the parking problem will only get bigger as Utah's population increases and more people seek outdoor recreation near the county's urban center. It would cost nearly a half-million dollars, he said, to add 12 parking spaces to the trailhead, which would only satisfy the demand for a short time.

"It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation," he said.

The County Council did not vote on the issue at Tuesday's meeting. It plans to continue the public hearing and vote on the issue at its Aug. 9 meeting.