By Turner C. Bitton – Many readers are familiar and frustrated with the gridlock that exists at many levels of government but are often less familiar with the impressive actions being taken by municipal and county governments to provide recreational, commuter, and mountain biking infrastructure and amenities. I sat down with Bill Morris, City Administrator of Marriott-Slaterville City in Weber County to talk about the city’s efforts to improve bicycle infrastructure and recreational opportunities. Marriott-Slaterville is a small community of just over 1,700 people located along the north bank of the Weber River between Ogden City and Plain City.
1. Can you explain the projects you are working? What led you to invest city resources in the project? What does Marriott-Slaterville City hope to accomplish through the project?
Our ambitious city has plans to extend the Centennial Trail along the Weber River from Ogden to Plain City. We have worked in cooperation with county officials to support the interconnected trail system that is growing everyday throughout Weber County.
A portion of this trail has already been completed between Ogden City and State Road 126 (1900 West). The Centennial was constructed several years ago and the city is currently working to add amenities such as trail markers and bike racks. A new trailhead parking area was installed in 2014 on 1700 South and provides one of the only direct access points to access the trail from the road between 21st Street and 1900 West. A trail map, bench, markers, and a bike rack are the some of the amenities that the city is looking to provide.
As a city in the heart of Weber County we hope to provide connections between our neighboring cities to one another to tie communities together and to support commuter and recreational cyclists.
2. How have you financed the project? Why is it important to you that the city invest in bicycle infrastructure?
The city has financed its trail project with RAMP funds received from Weber County and from fees generated by the city. The city also utilizes and is seeking donations to provide amenities listed above. It is important to invest in bicycle infrastructure to create a safe and usable alternative transportation system, and enhance the trail route. The scenic ride along the Weber River is one of the most popular recreational cycle routes in Northern Utah.
3. Have you learned any lessons during the project? Have any difficulties arisen?
Difficulties have arisen from transients who traffic the area and who are often disruptive. Three were arrested last month in the area after it was discovered they had felony warrants. The markers and bike racks will enhance safety and provide a greater level of recreation on the trail. More bikers will deter transient traffic and increased traffic will lead to greater community ownership of the trail.
4. What other bicycle infrastructure has the city invested in? Do you have plans for future infrastructure investments?
The city has many other plans to support bicycle infrastructure, including linking the river tail on 1700 South along 1200 West to the Weber County Fair Grounds a few miles to the north on 1200 West. This will provide a great bike route to this major recreation and event location and allow commuters from within Ogden City’s downtown to commute directly to the Weber County Fairgrounds. In addition, new bike racks are planned to be located at Marriott Park and the City Hall Park in Marriott-Slaterville.
5. Have you sought state or federal funding to assist with projects such as this? If so, what has been your experience?
Securing federal funds has proven difficult in an age of sequestration. There is not a significant amount of interest in bike funding when there is a constant battle over basic federal funding such as the budget. State funding is nearly just as difficult. None of the trail projects has secured state or federal funding to date. The Republican-dominated legislature and governor have eliminated many of the historical funding programs and critical land preservation programs such as the LeRay McAllister Critical Lands Conservation Fund. As a result, many conservation projects and trail projects have been left entirely to small municipalities to fund. Oftentimes, small cities such as Marriott-Slaterville are unable to fund the work that they would like to.
In contrast, county funding is much more attainable and as it is supported by local voters and elected officials who share a desire to extend the trail system and beautify the community. The Weber County RAMP program has been incredibly helpful in funding not only bicycle infrastructure but parks, theaters, museums, and other recreational opportunities.
Turner C. Bitton is an avid cyclist and serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations and in many volunteer leadership capacities. He lives in Ogden with his husband Chase and their two dogs Charley and Moose.