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Demonstrators oppose gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon

{p}On Sept. 25, 2021, demonstrators gathered in the Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride to oppose the gondola. (Photo courtesy of Robin  Pendergrast){/p}

On Sept. 25, 2021, demonstrators gathered in the Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride to oppose the gondola. (Photo courtesy of Robin Pendergrast)

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With this year's ski season approaching, UDOT is expected to make a decision about plans to combat congestion in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

As of Saturday, there are two options: a new eight-mile gondola or expanding the roadway and improving the bus system. Both plans would cost around a half billion dollars.

Many people are split about which plan will work the best or will be better for the environment, but there are others who say both ideas should be scrapped.

Demonstrators gathered Saturday in the Little Cottonwood Canyon Park and Ride to oppose the gondola.

"The gondola is not going to solve the traffic problem on the road. It's only going to become a tourist attraction and bring millions of people into this canyon to be destroyed,” said Beverly Astin with "Friends of Little Cottonwood Canyon."

She said the investment is huge considering weather only closes the canyon roads a few days a year.

"It's just a really bad solution to a problem that only really happens less than two weeks out of the year," she said.

Gondola Works" is a group representing those in favor of the gondola. Supporters of the plan say it will reduce carbon emissions and traffic in the canyon.

Some demonstrators said the half a billion dollars could be better spent.

"We spend money in Cottonwood Heights like it's water,” said Ed Schwartz, who is running for Mayor of Cottonwood Heights.

Multiple people running for local office were at the rally, asking voters to vote in those opposed to the gondola.

Schwartz said there are more creative solutions for the canyon, but thinks they weren't fully considered because they won't make as much money.

"The gondola is something for a small quaint community, not for Cottonwood Heights,” he said.

RELATED | Salt Lake County leaders criticize Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola proposal

The speakers said residents need to reach out to their local leaders and get involved now.

"Otherwise, it will happen you'll say could 'a, would 'a, should 'a done something,” said Fred Burton, who has lived at the mouth of the canyon for 30 years.

He said in 2002, the Olympics chose not to utilize the canyon because it is so fragile and vulnerable.

"What now has changed 20 years later that we need now to put 20 skyscrapers up this canyon and invite 20 million people?” he said.

The environment was the biggest concern for most demonstrators in attendance. They said the gondola could hurt the canyon and impact water, wildlife and vegetation.

"It's like killing the chicken that lays the golden egg,” Burton said.

Demonstrators suggested implementing tolls or more carpooling instead of the more drastic plans. Public comment on the project closed September 3rd.

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UDOT was expected to release their decision about their plans this winter, but those plans could be delayed after the large public response.

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