Paving of Ashton-Tetonia Rails to Trails Not Welcomed in Teton County, ID

Paving of Ashton-Tetonia Rails to Trails Not Welcomed in Teton County, ID

In a contentious meeting with the Department of Parks and Recreation, locals gathered to voice their concerns about the State's proposal to pave the 29-mile trail from Tetonia to Ashton. Expecting a discussion on potential improvements, the community was surprised by the presentation of a nearly finalized plan to pave the trail by 2026.

Over 60 community members, including county commissioners, cyclists, horseback riders, hikers, and families, convened at the high school auditorium for the presentation. Questions were raised about why local trail users hadn't been consulted earlier in the process.

Development Bureau East Region Construction Manager Nathan Powers explained that the grant application for paving the trail began two years prior, with $3 million awarded for the project. Despite starting assessments in 2012, community engagement efforts were lacking until now.

While some benefits of paving were presented, such as increased accessibility for strollers, wheelchairs, and cyclists, many expressed skepticism and opposition. Concerns were raised about the loss of trail aesthetics, environmental impacts, and exclusion of certain user groups, particularly horses.

The State's intention to pave the trail was met with significant pushback, with residents advocating for alternative surface materials and expressing support for trail improvements without paving. County commissioners circulated a letter conveying this sentiment.

Powers acknowledged the community's input and stated that it would be considered in the decision-making process, which is ultimately led by the Department of Commerce. Community members were encouraged to submit their comments and questions to the project website until May 10th.

Despite indications that the paving project was progressing, the meeting highlighted widespread public opposition and a desire for a more inclusive decision-making process that considers the diverse needs of trail users.

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