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Park City rangers helped couples who planned to wed at the ‘Church of Dirt’ find new venues

The Church of Dirt.
The Church of Dirt.

Park City’s trails and open space rangers say they became de facto wedding planners after closing the popular “Church of Dirt” venue in Bonanza Flat.

The Church of Dirt was high in the Wasatch Mountains, just a short walk from the parking lot at the busy Bonanza Flat trailhead. It’s part of the Bonanza Flat Conservation Area, established after the city bought the land in 2017.

A public space, the improvised church consisted of a makeshift arch made of old Aspen tree branches and 10 wooden benches.

Set in a field of sagebrush and scrub oak with a panoramic view of the mountains, the informal venue was built by Scott House and his wife for their wedding in 2012. After the ceremony, the rustic arch was left behind on the property, which at the time was private land, and other nuptials followed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic when events were pushed outside, the makeshift venue exploded in popularity as social media influencers promoted the church as a free, secret wedding spot.

Couples leave rocks and planks of wood with dates and times to claim a day for their wedding at the Church of Dirt in Park City's Bonanza Flat.
Couples leave rocks and planks of wood with dates and times to claim a day for their wedding at the Church of Dirt in Park City's Bonanza Flat.

However, the popularity of the Church of Dirt led to it “being loved to death due to overuse.” Weddings at the location caused overloaded parking lots, blocked roads, trash, scheduling conflicts and more. Last October, the Park City Council unanimously recommended the closure of the church.

On Thursday, trails and open space park ranger Billy Kurek told the Park City Council the benches and rustic arch have been removed and restoration signage was installed in their place.

“We have a huge implementation plan this year with no parking signage to kind of help make that roadway parking even more clear and kind of reduce that enforcement burden.”

Kurek said he and other park rangers also had to have some lengthy conversations with couples who had planned to wed at the Church of Dirt. Most couples were understanding.

“We had some dialogs where we tried to help guide people into other venues that might give them a similar type of experience,” he said.

The team also returned many wedding date markers previously dotting the ground at the Church of Dirt.

The trails and open space team is planning on keeping an eye on the area this season to note any impacts.