The Town of Brighton’s Incorporation
Town of Brighton Mayor Dan Knopp joined the Central Wasatch Commission’s Board in 2020. He is able to provide a voice for the canyon on issues such as traffic, transportation, trails, and tourism. Mayor Knopp is the Chair of the Commission’s Transportation Committee, through which commissioners and staff evaluate concepts, goals, and timelines for the Mountain Transportation System project.
A little history of Brighton
Brighton, Utah, located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, has been a community since 1871, when Catherine and William Brighton homesteaded 80 acres near Silver Lake. Yet, Brighton was only incorporated as an official town in November of 2019. This little slice of mountain paradise is known and loved by many for Brighton Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Silver Lake, the hiking and mountain biking trail network, backcountry skiing access, peaks that tower over either side of the canyon, and so much more.
The 16 square-mile Town of Brighton is made up of mostly public land managed by the US Forest Service, with 3.4 square miles that are privately held, and one square mile that belongs to Salt Lake City. The full-time population of Brighton is about 260, while the part-time population is about 1500, which makes 80% of the residences seasonal homes and cabins. Many residents have called the official incorporation of the Town of Brighton “a long time coming” and happily voted to become a town in 2019.
In envisioning the incorporation of Brighton, residents created a plan on how they wanted the town to look. The main objectives were to focus on local efforts and resources to improve the quality of life of the residents and visitors of Brighton as well as conserve the precious ecosystems that Big Cottonwood Canyon is home to. A few of the more specific goals include:
- To support town planning that encourages social and community relationships and healthy, active lifestyles.
- Encourage opportunities and spaces that invite community involvement, create a sense of place, and honor Big Cottonwood Canyon.
- Provide for wildfire mitigation and safety for residents and visitors.
- Preserve the beauty of the canyon for current and future generations.
- Support projects that include trail maintenance, education, and safety.
- Ensure involvement of all stakeholders, including ski areas and secondary homeowners.
For years, residents of Brighton wanted to have the ability to vote for a town mayor, elect city council members, and have local representation to help focus on local needs as well as know what revenue is generated and what is being spent in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Incorporation assisted all of these goals.
In January 2017, five residents of Brighton decided to request an Incorporation Feasibility Study from the Lt. Governor. These residents created a “Sponsor Group” in order to complete this study. To become a town, Utah Code requires that 20% of voters and 20% of property owners sign a petition request to incorporate. The first Feasibility Study was finished in May 2018 but it was ultimately decided that the study did not fully address the role of the Salt Lake Municipal Services District. Thus begun Feasibility Study #2, which was submitted on October 1, 2018. Finally, a revision of the second study concluded in Feasibility Study #3, which clarified the new Salt Lake County incorporation ordinance that made Metro Townships a possibility.
This entire process was confusing for all organizations and people involved, but a ⅔ vote in favor of Brighton’s incorporation showed that the residents valued the creation of an official town. A final election was held for town officials in November 2019 in which Dan Knopp, owner of the Silver fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon, was elected as the Town of Brighton’s first Mayor. Elected town council members included Jeff Bossard, Carolyn Keigley, Jenna Malone, and Keith Zuspan.
Barbara Cameron – President, Big Cottonwood Community Council, Town of Brighton Resident
Header photo of Brighton in the middle of winter taken by Mike Schmidt.
Written by Quinn Graves