Hundreds of people demonstrated against plans for the West Davis Corridor, a 24-mile, $600 million highway proposed by the Utah Department of Transportation. Although an in-depth environmental study and the selection of a preferred route are due in the spring, they didn't wait to denounce the proposal's impact on the community.
Carl Ingwell, founder of the online Utah Birder group, noted how new highways typically mean new development and more pollution. It's a contradiction that state leaders like Gov. Gary Herbert are prodding Utahns to drive less while building highways intended to get them to drive more, said Ingwell, who recently organized a protest and sit-in at the state capitol called Gov. Herbert, We Cannot Breathe.
"This is not smart growth," Ingwell told the Saturday crowd. "This is stupid growth."
UDOT spokesman John Gleason said in a telephone interview that the main question, given the state's projected population boom, is what route the highway will take. A route along Interstate 15 and another across more open lands along Farmington Bay are under consideration.
"Everything's subject to change until the final [alignment] decision in 2014," Gleason said.
Still, critics are bent on derailing the proposal entirely.
Utah does not need another highway," declared Marty Price of Fowl Minded, a group focused on conserving waterfowl and upland game habitat.
Jeffre Hicks of the Utah Airboat Association reminded the crowd there's no way to restore wetlands once they're gone. And the habitat is a critical part of the Pacific Flyway, a food and rest stop of international importance for migrating birds.
"There's just no way," he said, "to get that back."
Demonstrators lined Glovers Lane bobbing placards and waving at passers by. About a dozen air boats took part in a kind of parade along the narrow lane.
The protesters represented joggers, bikers, birders, hunters and locals devoted to the vast, though sometimes lake-stinky expanse along the Great Salt Lake just north of the Farmington Bay Wildlife Management Area.
Kalt said the outpouring was not entirely unexpected, since everyone she talks to about the highway seems to agree it's a bad idea.
"I was glad," she said, "so many other people and organizations felt the same as we did, had the same concerns."