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Bear River Greenway Master Plan/Bear Rive Ecological Corridor Restoration
Lori Porreca, Student ASLA, Sara Sevy, Student ASLA, Kris Kvarfordt, Student ASLA, Susan Buffler, Student ASLA, Chad Kennedy, Student ASLA, and Laura McCoy, Student ASLA

Utah State University
Advisors: Peter Kumble, ASLA, and Craig Johnson

Narrative Summary:

  • The project’s goals and objectives;
  • What kinds of environmental and social data were collected and analyzed;
  • Methods of analysis;
  • How options were considered;
  • How interested parties would be involved with the project;
  • How design was used in the process;
  • How the project would be implemented; and
  • How the project would be administered and/or monitored

Goals and Objectives
At the heart of Cache Valley in Utah, the Bear River offers a remarkable opportunity to preserve and improve the best attributes of the region. It is undeniably the region’s most valuable resource as a working, natural and recreational landscape. A greenway/blueway plan initiates a real process for maintaining vital connections to the river for present and future generations. The plan consists of two sections. In the first section, the project team developed a regional greenway plan for the Bear River, composed of recommendations and implementation strategies the region and five treatment zones; ecological, rural, urban, county-wide and riverfront. In the second section, the team addressed landscape-scale wildlife planning issues within the study site by developing restoration and management recommendations for a section of the Bear River corridor.

The project team began with the following goals:

  • Protect and enhance natural features for wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic amenity.
  • Provide recreation access to the corridor through appropriately located and developed facilities.
  • Identify and secure preservation for lands crucial for habitat and recreation linkages.
  • Promote awareness and preservation of historic, cultural, and ecological resources along the corridor through education and interpretation

Inventory and Analysis
The inventory and analysis of the study area were approached comprehensively, identifying resources related to people, places and the environment. An ecological inventory was conducted to identify relevant natural system components such as water quality, soil suitability and wildlife habitat issues. A landowner survey was administered to identify current land use, ownership patterns and landowner concerns. An inventory of all existing and possible open space network components identified possible greenway links, hubs and sites.

Existing GIS data from the Logan City and Cache County were compiled to identify areas that could be used to construct a framework of hubs, links and sites. Each element was mapped separately in order to easily identify and emphasize the importance of connecting these resources as the population of Cache Valley continues to grow.

Hubs consist of existing open spaces within the study area. Community resources such as existing recreation areas, town squares, city parks, cemeteries and golf courses have all been mapped as park of the network of hubs within Cache Valley. Many of these hubs serve as critical habitat areas for wildlife and also destinations for many of the valley’s residents. These spaces are also commonly viewed as amenities that contribute to the overall quality of life and perceived beauty of a region. It is also important to note that while many of these spaces are public, many of them are also private, which further reinforces the cooperation and partnerships that will be required to make this plan a success.

Sites consist of many open spaces and other destinations throughout the study area. These areas have been identified two-fold; first as critical destinations for humans to include recreation, open space, shopping centers and campuses, and second as critical destinations for wildlife to include, critical habitat areas, river corridors and rural open space. Sites add another layer of complexity to the development of the greenway master plan by adding even more areas that are a priority for connection as part of the greater framework. However, the river corridor, identified as a site, provides that linkage and also establishes the corridor as being critical to the region for many reasons beyond the conveyance of water.

Perhaps the most critical components to a successful greenway plan are the linkages between hubs and sites. Connectivity is important because it allows for animal migration and creates opportunity for transportation alternatives to the automobile. This study inventoried all of the corridors that could be included in the greenway system. Existing trails, select roadways, utility corridors, old rails lines, canal easements, and stream corridors have all been identified as potential greenway linkages.

The physical component of the plan is a melding of all of the hubs, links and sites into a network of connected open space. Only specific portions of this network are identified for trail and recreational development. The bulk of the open space network consists of ecological and cultural corridors that have been identified for conservation. The Bear River Greenway Master Plan is intended to function as the open space component of a larger regional plan. It will serve to guide future land use along the Bear River Bottoms to encourage agriculture preservation, water quality improvement, wildlife habitat protection and restoration and the creation of a recreation amenity that will last long into the future.

Results and Recommendations
Five different treatment zones were identified in the study area. The five zones are rural, urban countywide, riverfront and ecological. The recommendations for each zone vary according to the level of treatment that is appropriate and feasible.

Rural treatment zones apply to landscapes that are dominated by larger intact land parcels. Large and small-scale agriculture is the primary land use, followed by low-density residential development. Rural treatment zones exist within town boundaries and in unincorporated county lands. Residents in rural areas may be associated with farmsteads and have long intergenerational ties and multiple land holdings. Main concerns include: preservation of agricultural lands, open space and rural character; maintaining a viable agricultural economy; appropriate recreation access; resident privacy; and greenway user safety and education. Recommended actions include: identify natural and cultural resources to protect; develop privacy buffers for residents; install signage for education, way-finding and safety; improve public access; and apply land preservation tools such as agricultural zoning, right-to-farm laws, conservation plans and education programs. Privacy buffers and narrows paths characterize greenway access in rural areas. Designs incorporate safety features where trails or bike paths intersect with roads or railroad corridors. Intersections of greenway trails and roads near rural towns offer the opportunity to develop or enhance local gateway features.

The countywide zone includes unincorporated land in the ten townships surrounding the Bear River Bottoms. This category is concerned with linkages such as trails, bikeways and wildlife and recreation connections to other management units such as the Cache National Forest. Recreation amenities include bike lanes shared with roadways, local trail linkages to regional trail systems and utility and rail corridors for wildlife and recreation and transportation. Main concerns include: linking rural and urban communities to the Bear River corridor and connecting to other management units, such as Cache National Forest. Recommended actions include: linking rural and urban communities to the Bear River corridor; linking parks, schools, and public spaces through the green infrastructure; improve and concentrate public access in order to preserve ecologically sensitive areas; develop a rail-trail along Union Pacific rail line; identify lands to take action on, secure and preserve; and develop demonstration projects. In countywide zones, greenway features are mostly linear connections and travel ways. Appropriate county roads will be targeted to become shared roadways. Improved bike lanes will feature five-foot minimum paved shoulders with safety striping. Abandoned railroad corridors can become multi-use ADA accessible trails. Where roads and rail-trails intersect, safety treatments include signage, bollards and painted crosswalks.

The ecological zone includes the Bear River corridor and adjacent land as well as critical ecological and hydrological recharge areas in other parts of the valley. The emphasis is on protection of water quality and wildlife habitat. Public access is limited to the river corridor. As much of the vegetation and streambank on the Bear River corridor is degraded, restoration will be a key component in the long-term management of this zone. Main concerns include: protection of water quality; continued availability of water for residents; protection of wildlife habitat; and restoration of key areas. Recommended actions include: develop and improve riparian buffers for wildlife and water quality; work with landowners to develop restoration and vegetation management plans; develop alternative livestock watering methods; provide alternatives for animal waste disposal; protect, develop and improve migration corridors; identify and preserve hydrological recharge and discharge areas; and apply appropriate planning tools for land protection. Treatments in ecological zones focus on wildlife, vegetation and water. Working with landowners, stream restoration can begin as alternative livestock watering methods are developed. A 300-foot vegetated buffer strip filters agricultural waste improving water quality and provides riparian wildlife habitat.

Also within the ecological zone, the team developed more detailed restoration and management goals and recommendations for a smaller site along the Bear River corridor. Understanding ecosystem functioning is a complex, perhaps impossible process. Some species of wildlife however, are natural indicators of the ecosystem health around them. The absence of these indicator species provides clues to possible ecosystem degradation and may warrant closer attention to management practices, land uses, development, and water/habitat quality. As the project site is located within a major wildlife migratory route, the team used seven avian wildlife indicator species to develop habitat models. Using a combination of GIS vegetation data and ground-truthing, the habitat models identified critical foraging and nesting habitat for each species. The models were combined to outline an area of the study site that is in the greatest need of restoration and active management. The team then developed restoration and management options for each habitat type.

The riverfront zone includes areas adjacent to waterways, including the Bear River and its tributaries. Here opportunities exist to concentrate public access for the purpose of recreation while preserving sensitive ecological areas. Riverfront areas also provide unique educational opportunities for visitors. Main concerns include: improved public access for recreation and education, and integrity of ecologically sensitive areas. Recommended actions include: develop safer, easier access to canoe launches and takeouts; expand and define parking facilities; provide shaded picnic areas with scenic river and/or valley vistas; install interpretive boardwalks and signage that take user through wildlife habitat; construct viewing towers and/or lookouts; develop loop trails easily accessible by road, located on Pacificorp property or other public or quasi-public land; limit livestock access to river; develop privacy buffers for adjacent residences; and develop below grade trails at bridge crossings for safety. Physical actions in the riverfront zone focus on education and preservation. Riverfront amenities include interpretive loop trails, shaded picnic areas, parking and canoe launch facilities. Again, vegetated buffers are used to concentrate and limit human impact and protect residents’ privacy. At bridge crossings, greenway trails are constructed below the road grade to enhance user safety and experience.

The urban zone refers to the greater Logan area and includes the cities of Smithfield,
Hyde Park, River Heights and Providence. This more densely populated area warrants different treatments than the surrounding rural area. The emphasis is on safety, water quality, links to surrounding areas and the improvement and expansion of the green way network. Main concerns include: safety for greenway users; water quality; linkages to surrounding areas; and improvement and expansion of the greenway network. Recommended actions include: enhance city gateway-greenway intersections with consistent signage; improve safety at road crossings; link urban communities to Bear River corridor; link existing parks, schools, and public spaces through green infrastructure; and protect aquifer recharge/discharge areas through acquisition and application of land preservation tools. Urban greenway trails emphasize safety features, accessibility, landscape buffers and connections between parks, schools, public spaces and the Bear River corridor. Urban pathways are generally a minimum of five feet wide, are paved with asphalt or concrete and are separated from roadways by narrow landscaped buffer strips. They can also function as alternative travel routes for pedestrians and cyclists because they connect so many vital urban hubs. Above-grade and well-defined at-grade greenway crossings are used to improve user safety. Gateway features, such as signage and public art, are used to improve town character as well as access and visibility to the regional greenway.

The project team also outlined regional next steps including the completion of a regional land use analysis for Cache Valley to assess the suitability of all potential land use types in the valley. The Bear River Bottoms Greenway is the green infrastructure or green space component of the valley-wide regional master plan. The project team also proposed the establishment of a greenway coordinator position and greenway committee. These entities will work with agencies and landowners to accomplish the objectives set forth in this plan. Proposed responsibilities for a greenway coordinator include: funding acquisition; coordination of resources; facilitation of land acquisition; facilitation of design and development of site improvement recommendations; operation and maintenance of greenway resources; accountability to stakeholders; and working with local units of government to ensure that new development accommodates greenway planning initiatives.

Regional plans can offer strong vision but are not easily implemented because a strong regional decision-making authority is often lacking in western states. Who takes responsibility is often not addressed because of existing independent jurisdictional structures. Using the township organization, the team developed township maps separated into treatment zones. Included with each township’s treatment zone map are recommendations by treatment zone presented in a matrix. Each matrix lists the recommendations along the y-axis. The overall importance (in shades of blue), the time frame for addressing the issue (in shades of red) and the responsible players (in shades of green) are listed along the x-axis at the top of each matrix. Potential partners in implementation have been grouped for reading ease, but a complete list with abbreviations is included at the bottom of each matrix. The recommendations are a starting point. It is expected that they will change as the physical and social conditions of the study site are changed over time. In addition, the team has developed an implementation toolbox, which provides planning, policy, design and funding tools to implement the recommendations of the plan.



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