Built Environment

Built Environment Overview 

The “built environment” connects the social and natural environments.gold-run-hike2It is our direct response to the desires of people to use American Fork Canyon (AFC)and enjoy its natural settings.  The built environment of the Canyon includes its full system of roads, trails, bridges, dams, utilities and infrastructure, outhouses, buildings, cabins, parking lots, picnic areas, bolted climbing routes, and other features that provide access or amenity improvements.  As use of the Canyon changes or increases, the built environment is adapted to both protect natural assets and accommodate desired uses.  Importantly, the built environment of the Canyon doesn’t only contain public amenities and assets.  The project area contains over 11,000 acres of private lands, which are typically under greater pressure for development than public lands.

The Details

  • Roads – Approximately 1.2 million visitors in 450,000 vehicles visited American Fork Canyon in the 6 months it was open in 2014. That is more than half the visitation experienced at Zion National Park during the same 6 peak months. The Canyon has a variety of road types. This includes 53 miles of natural dirt, 36 miles of paved asphalt, and 10 miles of gravel. As one of the most popular scenic drives in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is known for outstanding fall color and access to various recreation spots within the canyon. This 20-mile route gains 3,000 feet in elevation, taking its riders through rich scenery and providing to access Lone Peak Wilderness Area, Cascade Springs, Sundance Resort, and Timpanogos Cave National Monument. The scenic byway is typically open for automobile travel from late May through late October. Recreation also occurs throughout the winter.
  • Recreational facilities  – Within the general project area there are approximately 14 campgrounds, 9 picnic and day use areas, and 25 trailheads. 40% of the facilities provide parking, 32% include a restroom, and 17% provide water for visitors. The project area has 82 parking facilities. There are also 35 designated shoulder “pull-off” areas. In the active months of the year, about 4,000 cars pass through daily and these parking facilities are at full capacity. AFC has 150 miles of trails, including wilderness trails limited to horses and hikers, accessible interpretive trails, single track trails for hiking, mountain biking, equestrian, and motorcycle use, and other multi-use trails.
  • Buildings – Utah County GIS Division aerial photography shows that there are around 500 buildings in the project area. Over 400 of the 500 buildings are located in or adjacent to Sundance Resort. Of the remaining 100 buildings in the Canyon most are historic, along with a few private cabins.
  • Historic properties – A variety of historic development exists throughout the Canyon, including mining structures, ranger stations, and old residences. The Timpanogos Cave Historic District, which includes several historic buildings, is listed on the National Historic Register. Many of the structures in the Canyon were built by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservations Corps (CCC).
  • Other Canyon Infrastructure – AFC has several other types of infrastructure in the built environment.  This infrastructure includes 4 reservoirs: Tibble Fork, Pittsburg Lake, Silver Lake, and Silver Lake Reservoir. In 2015, Tibble Fork will be undergoing a rehabilitation project from the USDA with an expected annual benefit of $535,000 for water supply, recreation, and flood protection. Other noticeable infrastructure in the canyon includes a Rocky Mountain Power overhead line that is visible throughout the lower sections of the Canyon; a Centurylink and Utah County fiber-optic and analog lines that involve overhead and underground installations; and municipal water piping infrastructure that transports water from spring sources to cities in the valley. Sewer and water service are available at Sundance Resort, but not in the rest of the Canyon.
  • All other utilities are provided and managed on an individual onsite basis. All toilets in the Canyon are vault toilets, and all water is sourced from canyon springs or waterways; there are very few places to obtain safe, potable water in the Canyon. Fuel for heating buildings is delivered by truck and stored onsite and trash removal is individually contracted. Snowbird and Sundance both have major resort infrastructure in the project areas, including ski lifts, trails systems, and operations/maintenance access.

Future opportunities

Presently, using the canyon essentially requires an automobile, and is limited by the automobiles that can be accommodated.  Some questions for the Vision’s built environment include: Would you like to see public transit (e.g., shuttles or buses) in the canyon to accommodate increasing use? Should the Canyon provide substantially more parking or roadway improvements?  Is a transit connection to Snowbird or Sundance, along with resort recreation access, desirable? Where would we place specific projects – more campsites, picnic areas, trails, or other such things, to make an integrated recreation system work?