BYU is in the process of purchasing 80 acres containing the historic Y with its accompanying trail on Y Mountain from the Forest Service.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a bill in April that allowed BYU to purchase the land for fair-market value. Chaffetz’s bill proposal stated BYU will own and service all of the land while maintaining high levels of public access. Other BYU alums, including Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, D-America Samoa, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., have already signed on to be co-sponsors of the bi-partisan bill.
Provo Mayor John Curtis testified June 28 before a house subcommittee on BYU purchasing the 80 acre parcel of Y Mountain. Chaffetz asked Curtis to make the trip to Washington D.C. to testify.
“Our Y is a signal on our eastern mountain to many people. In an interesting way it represents home,” Curtis said. “It identifies us and tells people that they have arrived to the site of something very unique and special.”
The mayor also shared the history behind Y Mountain, dating back to 1906. The 1906 and 1907 classes were feuding over which graduating class should be able to permanently carve their graduating year number into the side of the mountain. School president George H. Brimhall settled the dispute by devising a plan to remove the class numbers and replace them with the letters BYU.
After the creation of the first letter Y took much longer than anticipated, the other letters were abandoned and Y Mountain was born.
In the subcommittee meeting, Mayor Curtis said, “This once BYU-owned 80-acre parcel, including most of the trail, is now under ownership of the United States Forest Service, although Brigham Young University has managed the Forest Service’s portion of the trail for the past 50 years.”
BYU already owns the trail head as well as the first two switchbacks and has made improvements including signs and seating along the trail. In his remarks to the subcommittee, Mayor Curtis explained from the perspective of the Utah Valley community, BYU already owns, and works for the benefit and interest of, Y Mountain.
“Allowing Brigham Young to purchase this property would help preserve the trail for the short and long terms. It would provide a private owner with an impeccable record of sound stewardship of environmental resources to manage and maintain the trail,” Curtis said.
Jamie Gough, the Regional Legislative Affairs Specialist for the Forest Service, said while not common, the Forest Service has conveyed land in accordance with legislation passed by Congress. The Forest Service initially gained ownership of the two 40-acre parcels in 1936 from Colorado Development Company and Zion’s Savings Bank and Trust for erosion control.
“If this legislation passes and is signed into law, the United States will convey to BYU all rights, title and interest to the two parcels that are approximately 80 acres,” Gough said. “This process includes an appraisal, survey and administrative process which should occur no later than one year after BYU makes the request to the Secretary of Agriculture.”
Gough explained it is impossible to determine a ball-park figure of the fair market value of the land without the neccessary appraisal process.
Todd Hollingshead, a university spokesman, said once the appraisal comes back, BYU is committed to paying fair market value.
Hollingshead continued, explaining BYU wants to purchase the land so the Y trail and the Y itself will continue to be open and available for the public to enjoy.
“The most important thing to know is that nothing about the trail will change for the public. This will allow us to preserve the trail going forward,” said Hollingshead.
“I think it’s cool that a piece of our heritage is being preserved and being well kept.” Charne Van Jaarsveld, a BYU student majoring in economics from South Africa, said. “The Y is an important landmark. When I first moved to BYU it’s how I was able to tell my direction. Now it’s how I know that I’m home. It’s one of those things where you look up at Y mountain and you think to yourself that you are a part of something special.”