Utah County officials are supposed to be in charge --that was the takeaway message from the Mountain Accord signing in July, but little has happened since.
Indeed, it might appear the county commissioners are taking a hiatus from the controversial politics of American Fork Canyon.
Not so, according to the Utah County commissioners. More patient than residents perhaps, they are waiting for a response from Bob Bonar and Snowbird.
“They do have an interest in working through the process with us and have been I might add,” Commissioner Larry Ellertson said. “I spoke with them earlier this week and I need to call them back to see where they are with that process. So I will do that and see if we can’t move it along.”
With the controversy mellowing from its spring and summer beginnings, there has been unseen progress in preparation. In short, communication is becoming more open.
Bob Bonar represents Snowbird both as its president and as a spokesman.
“Since the Mountain Accord signing that happened a while ago, we are just taking our time to analyze the situation and trying to see where things are heading,” Bonar said. “We have talked to some stakeholders in Salt Lake County and Utah County and getting their feedback and input prior to coming to any conclusion about what our next step would be.”
According to Mark Allen, one of the founders of Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon, waiting for more action to happen doesn’t bother him.
“I am actually fine with the process being slow and thoughtful,” Allen said. “What I’m not OK with is the lack of transparency. “
He would like to see planning as an open meeting process, something Commissioner Greg Graves said he would like to see too. Graves echoed Ellertson’s statement as well.
“I agree with Larry 100 percent, we are just waiting to see what Snowbird comes back with for a proposal,” Graves said.
According to Graves, the commissioners are working to put together a public meeting so residents can voice their concerns about the treasured canyon.
“They could voice what they are thinking they would like to have happen,” said Mike Stansfield, commission board spokesman.
“They don’t have anything in the budget per say, but a public meeting would be easy to do,” he said. “They would probably just use the civic center and contact the communities, invite people to come, just let people know.”
Commissioner Bill Lee was more forthcoming on what recent discussions, as a board, have produced. Not only do they want a public meeting to get input, but also a task force group would be called together to work on different aspects of American Fork Canyon and growth impact.
There are 1.2 million visits to American Fork Canyon each year and a study begun at the start of 2015 using university students to gather input from visitors in the canyon will be completed by January 2016. Funding for another study is not an issue yet, said Ellertson.
“We’re not buying anything, we’re not doing anything in terms of funding,” Ellertson said. “The funding would come from whoever it is who wants to do whatever they want to do.”
The consortium called Mountain Accord began in 2012 involving three counties — Salt Lake, Summit and Wasatch. Its purpose was to draft an accord or agreement for future planning, protection and development of the Central Wasatch Mountain Range.
Mountain Accord’s study of the mountains and its canyons caught the attention of media statewide in February when Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and the United States Forest Service, announced a proposed land swap of more than 1,500 privately owned acres in Little Cottonwood Canyon with 415 acres of federally held public lands in American Fork Canyon.
The decision to cross over into another county — Utah County — with no representation on the accord board alarmed the attention of the founders of Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon, which began working to get representation and planning on the county's behalf.