Advocates for active transportation say more urban trails are one of the best solutions to air quality and transportation issues. And soon, local governments may have another, bigger tool to create such trails.
Draft legislation from Mike Winder, a republican from West Valley City, would allow local authorities to use eminent domain to build trails, provided they meet certain requirements like being wider than 48 inches and paved.
For Cache County’s trail planner, Dayton Crites, the law would be valuable, but also extremely powerful.
“It’s considered very much a nuclear option, that no politician wants to operate,” Crites said.
Crites said while the law would make creating trails easier, eminent domain would also invite more controversy from landowners.
Trails planners used to have the power, but it was repealed in favor of a smaller government. Eminent domain is still used often in road construction, and Crites said it might make sense to equate motorized and active transportation.
Trails are features for the local community, however, and Crites said it is better when all the locals are on board.
“Actually not having eminent domain has opened up conversations and made people more approachable here," Crites said, "because you’re like ‘well I can’t threaten you with my trails master plan,' because it only will work where the landowner and the local entity can agree. And that’s a little more 'kumbaya.'"
Winder’s legislation is still just an idea however, and it would have to pass in next year’s legislative session.