Utah locals concerned about possible gondola coming to Little Cottonwood Canyon

Little Cottonwood Canyon is located off Wasatch Boulevard, 15 miles outside of Salt Lake City. A gondola will soon inhabit this space. (Emma Keddington)

The Utah Department of Transportation announced the preferred alternative of a gondola coming to Little Cottonwood Canyon, located in Wasatch-Cache National Forest about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City, despite local concern.

UDOT’s idea for a gondola came as an environmentally safe solution for increasing recreational activity in the area. According to Gondola Works, a group supported by ski resorts Snowbird and Alta, the gondola will be a zero-emission, high-capacity, sustainable solution to “solve the congestion that exists now and preserve Little Cottonwood’s mountain access for the future.”

This Park and Ride is the current way that people get from the bottom of the canyon to the top. This will change upon the gondola’s arrival. (Emma Keddington)

Regardless of UDOT’s reasoning for the gondola, some Utahns are upset about the plan, calling it a “money dump,” or “tourist attraction,” according to Salt Lake City resident Aaron Jones. Jones said he is concerned about how its arrival will affect the outdoor activities they enjoy.

“The gondola is using the Wasatch front to turn Salt Lake into a more tourist-friendly zone; however, I think it is hurting many outdoor activities people in Salt Lake enjoy — countless rock climbing routes and hikes will be destroyed,” Jones said. He continued, “It’s essentially a large business idea that pulls money and activities from the people in the valley and gives another attraction to the rich people visiting, which then benefits the big businesses and government.”

The organization Friends of Little Cottonwood Canyon is a group of concerned Utahns working against the gondola and is Gondola Work’s biggest opposition. Their goal is to “protect the beauty” of the canyon.

Friends of Little Cottonwood Canyon protest the gondola’s arrival with support from many Utahns. They hope to preserve the canyon for future Utah generations. (Emma Keddington)

“As a group of local residents who have long enjoyed the natural beauty of Little Cottonwood Canyon, we believe the canyon should be protected from expansive development and overuse for future generations,” the website says. We have grown up with the canyon and want to see our children grow up enjoying the same pure water, pristine views and unspoiled wilderness. Protecting it is our mission.”

Friends of Little Cottonwood Canyon protest the gondola’s arrival. $660 million of taxpayer dollars will go towards building the gondola. (Emma Keddington)

Initially, according to Gondola Works, there were two proposed solutions to the aforementioned concerns before the gondola was approved, the other being an enhanced bus service.

“The idea is either you build the road to allow expanded access or you build the gondola, but the road access will have to be expanded for the gondola to be constructed in the first place. Either way, you end up with roads all over the place,” BYU neuroscience major and environmentalist Ian Hunsaker said.

According to Gondola Works, the gondola will cost an estimated $550 million with an additional $10 million annual cost for upkeep, funded by taxpayers and users. The gondola will be a state capital project.

“The gondola would be a fun tourist attraction, but it doesn’t seem super practical for transportation,” said Abby Ebert, BYU Human Resource Management major and Utah native.

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