Park City, Summit County investigate land-clearing incidents
Park City and Summit County officials are investigating two incidents in recent weeks of heavy machinery clearing land, allegedly without permission.
The Weber River is home to many species of birds and fish and provides drinking water to the Wasatch Front. Wildlife officials say its wetlands function as a crucial filtration system for the area’s watershed.
So when Summit County Council Member Doug Clyde saw that a bulldozer had started to move dirt on the river’s edge in Weber Canyon, he reported it to code enforcement officers.
“It was particularly disturbing, because literally, you know, there had to be $10 million worth of big yellow equipment down there, right in the heart of the river. Essentially, tearing up floodplain, tearing up probably wetlands, certainly removing vast quantities of riparian vegetation," Clyde said. "I mean, piles of willows 15 feet tall, 100 feet long, just massive destruction, literally 10-15 feet away from the river.”
Summit County Community Development Director Pat Putt said in Tuesday’s Summit County Council meeting the bulldozer was on private property and the work has been stopped while the county investigates.
Clyde went on to say that it’s necessary for the county to put ordinances in place that better protect wetlands, especially in land zoned for agricultural use.
“I've been grousing about this for what's getting close to 12 years. We need to get it done," Clyde said. "We need some language that says, ‘You don't get to do anything you want to under the name of agriculture.’ Because right now, that's what we've got.”
Meanwhile, Park City is investigating reports of another controversial land-clearing operation, this one on Bonanza Flat. Neighbors have complained of a bulldozer grading the land on Jeep Hill, the main entrance for several cabins in the Brighton Estates area.
Drew Christenson’s family has owned property in the area for 50 years. He said he was the one who used heavy equipment to grade the road, and said he believes he has a right to maintain the access his family has used for years.
Christenson uses Jeep Hill to get to his property and says he grades the road with a bulldozer every 4 to 5 years depending on the weather and how much the road has degraded. According to Christenson, this is the first time he’s graded the road since Park City bought Bonanza Flat.
Park City Trails and Open Space Program Manager Heinrich Deters says he can’t comment on the situation due to a pending investigation.