Overcrowding in the Cottonwood Canyons

By Amy Brunvand

“Recreation Challenges on Public lands” was the theme of the 24th annual Wallace Stegner Center Symposium held in March. Outdoor recreation constitutes two percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and has become a primary use of public lands. However, increased visitation causes problems of overcrowding, user conflicts, soil erosion, water pollution and wildlife displace­ment.

Utah’s Wasatch Mountains are experiencing the pains of population growth. Dave Whittekiend, supervisor of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said that in the past five years there has been a 20% increase in forest visits but a decrease in funding. The 2018-19 ski season brought unprecedented traffic jams to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons which some blamed on sales of multi-resort Ikon season ski passes.

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has begun transportation planning for the canyons in order to consider transit, tolls, parking, and pedestrian and bike facilities. Save Our Canyons envisions an idealized transportation system for the Wasatch Mountains using a reliable, affordable and efficient shuttle system.

Little Cottonwood Cayon EIS:udot.utah.gov/littlecottonwoodeis; Cottonwood Canyons Transportation Action Plan: udot.utah.gov/cottonwoodcanyonstap; Save Our Canyons: Recreation Access & Transportation: saveourcanyons.org/issues/access-and-transportation/

This article was originally published on April 29, 2019.