Petition aims to create Town of Brighton in Big Cottonwood Canyon

BRIGHTON, Utah -- Should a big chunk of Big Cottonwood Canyon become the official Town of Brighton? A petition handed over to the state this week aims to ask voters that question next year.

Those behind the petition say the canyon doesn’t get enough funding to maintain services for the growing number of tourists.

They said designating Brighton as a town could help, but others worry what the incorporation could mean for the area.

On Friday, families flocked to the canyon, talking a walk or family pictures among the fall colors.

“People love it here,” said Barbara Cameron, Chair of the Big Cottonwood Canyon Community Council.

She and local resident Carolyn Keigley said canyon visitation has increased in the past few years.

“There are 3.5 million visitors in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon a year,” Keigley said.

They both say the services to support that recreation is lacking.

“It`s been kind of a desperate situation,” Cameron said.

Keigley said it comes down to needing to improve the "Three T’s."

One: Toilets.

“We have three vault toilets in this canyon for that number of visitors, which is totally inadequate,” Keigley said.

Another is trails, she said, and the third is transportation.

“Traffic, as everyone knows, has become huge,” Keigley said.

Cameron said the reason improvement is slow: Not enough funding.

“We don't have a reliable revenue stream,” she said.

Keigley said residents have been trying to ask Salt Lake County and the mayor’s office for years to see the numbers for how much sales tax money comes out of the canyon from businesses and ski areas, versus how much is actually invested back in.

In order to find out, she said they needed to launch a petition to incorporate Brighton as a town—because it’d spark the state to start a study.

Keigley sponsored the petition with four other residents, and they gathered what they said were the required number of signatures.

The state elections office said Friday that meant signatures from 20-percent of private property owners and 20-percent of registered voters in the proposed boundary area.

Director of Elections Mark Thomas said they received the petition Tuesday, and now they’ll spend 20 days processing the paperwork.

After that, they’ll hire an outside firm for about $20,000 to conduct a study.

“They will do a feasibility study, to find out whether it's feasible to become a town,” Keigley explained.

Cameron said that’s what the Big Cottonwood Canyon Community Council is waiting for. She said they want to see the results of the study.

She said they have not taken a stance on the petition or the idea of the area being an actual town.

While many residents in the area are “absolutely for” the incorporation, she said a number of people are against it.

“They're worried that this will give lease to completely develop this area,” Cameron said.

Keigley gave assurance that development is not part of the town designation plan, and that protections already in place prevent huge development.

She said they’d like to see a small community center built, however, because currently they use the fire station for meetings and events.

Keigley said Alta is a good example to look at in terms of how Brighton would be run and the cultural/heritage events it would host.

The hope, she indicated, is that not only would they get more funding, but they’d also have more of a say in how resources are allocated.

“We could feel like we have some voice into how this community is going to improve,” she said.

State Elections Director Mark Thomas said after the 20 days of processing the petition, if everything checks out, about two months will be spent on the feasibility study.

Ultimately if the town incorporation question moves forward, he said it’d end up on the June 2018 ballot.