Salt Lake residents concerned city’s bike path proposal will impact their property

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City has recently approved a new $1 million project that will convert an old canal into a new bike trail.

The Jordan and Salt Lake Canal runs for 28 miles under the east side of Salt Lake Valley, from the Jordan Narrows to South Temple.

The city is working on designs to add possible paving, lighting, benches, and signs. The trail will run from 800 South to 3300 South, and it will be called the McClelland Trail. It will be open to pedestrians and bicycling, but closed to motorized vehicles.

The canal was originally built in 1882 as a way to haul granite building blocks from Little Cottonwood Canyon for the construction of the LDS Temple downtown. The canal was covered up in the early 1900s and has acted as an alley ever since.

"The canal access that Salt Lake City has here is one of the most unique things, it's similar to when we obtain the rights of an old railway, we've got a great big wide space that's about 3.7 miles that will run north-south through many neighborhoods in Salt Lake City," said District 5 City Council Woman Erin Mendenhall.

"When we have a protected corridor like this, the number of people who are willing to ride this way jump up to 80 percent," Mendenhall said.

However, many residents have concerns about the trail not allowing motor vehicles. There are about 40 to 50 homes along the proposed trail that rely on the canal as the only access to get cars into garages.

"That would be horrible because I can't afford the cement to put a driveway in to the front of the house," said resident Martha Kaiser.

Kaiser said when she bought her house 18 years ago she was told by the previous owner that they received a building permit from the city to build the garage facing the canal.

"I could really easily have a lawsuit because that's just how we planned our property investments and how it was built and right of ways are supposed to be honored," Kaiser said.

The alley is technically 66-feet in width. However, many properties extend into that space with vegetation, fences, sheds, etc. The city has the power to take back their property line.

"They could take out another 10 feet into our yard," said resident Jim Brandi. "We would lose our landscaping that we worked on for 15 years, we'd lose our fence."

Jim Brandi said he's losing sleep, his garage is also along the trail, and he just hopes the city works with all those families being affected.

"Those are conversations we need to have, so we can decide how those buildings that are there that may not of been permitted, but they exist, and the neighbors are using them, are going to intersect with this trail," Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall said the city has not finalized any designs and does plan to work with the residents along the trail.

There is no time frame for completion but the city does expect to break ground sometime next year, according to Mendenhall.