A large piece of Ogden mountainside owned and “operated” by Chris Peterson extends from 29th Street nearly to the top of Malan’s Peak. Several trails, including the Waterfall Canyon trail and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, traverse his property.
On the Facebook page he uses for the property, Facebook.com/OgdenFoothillPrivateLand, Peterson stated the access road to the Waterfall Canyon hiking trail would be closed until sometime in December for maintenance work. Peterson also said that trail users who like his page could find out in advance about property and trail closures.
The exact nature of the “maintenance work,” however, is not explained. But this isn’t what is firing up Ogden residents.
Peterson later posted on his page that the trail would likely be closed off sometime in the future to house dangerous live-fire sniper training. He then said that he, for personal reasons, supports the U.S. troops and “will do whatever I can to help our troops get the best training on the best equipment before they go into harm’s way. If that means that 10 or 100 or 1,000 people miss a few days or weeks or months or years of hiking on my private property, so be it.”
We came to find out that the snipers training on Peterson’s property, the property that some Ogden residents use on a daily basis, don’t have any direct correlation with the U.S. military at all. Photos of these “military snipers” are actually from 2011, and Peterson took many himself. They are featured in “Shooting Illustrated.” The snipers in question are merely gun enthusiasts using our natural backdrop as a playground for their hazardous sport.
Regardless of whether these snipers are military personnel or not, they are still firing dangerous weapons on property that Ogden residents use and love. Although owning the land gives Peterson the right to do what he wants, allowing snipers to shoot around violates his own policies of “leave no human trace behind” and “take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
On the same Facebook page, Peterson often uploads photos of litter and other abuse of his lot and gently encourages others to treat the land with appreciation. He is said to be a man who encourages the use of trails. This we can also respect, but not if it’s coming from a hypocrite.
The safety of hikers, bikers and runners who use these trails daily is our main concern. These trails are for everybody, and most of the people who use them do so respectfully and want them to be protected. Sniper training, especially if falsely touted as “military” sniper training, should take place on parcels of land far away from civilian interaction. There are dozens of mountains in this glorious state that are widely unused and immensely unpopular compared to Waterfall Canyon. Ever heard of Dugway or Beaver? Those places have mountains.
Besides accessing the trail from the north or south Bonneville Shoreline Trail system, some hikers could be put in the range of fire from hiking down the backside of Snowbasin. What trail markers and signs will be placed here to warn backcountry hikers of the potential crossfire from snipers in training?
Who knows how long this gunplay will last once it begins? Only the man who owns the mountain knows how often it will occur.