Summit Land Conservancy wraps up 2019 with the most successful conservation year yet. They closed seven transactions totaling 1200 acres.
The land is located along the Weber River, in the town of Oakley and is adjacent to the new campground. According to Summit Land Conservancy’s Executive Director Cheryl Fox the campground is part of the new rodeo grounds and does not have access to the Weber.
“And so, we worked with two land owners, with the city of Oakley, with Summit County with South Summit Trails and some other private partners to participate in a two-step transaction basically that will save this parcel from future development and create a sort of public area, public park so that people who are in the campground, or anybody can have access to the river.”
Protecting river areas and wetlands is important to the Land Conservancy. They possess a handful of conservation values in addition to the public access Fox describes.
“These environments are so sensitive and so important for filtering water, keeping our drinking water clean and you know everybody in Park City drinks water out of the Weber River. So, this is upstream from the pump that brings the water up to Park City.”
There are also restoration opportunities that would return the stream to its natural course.
“It’s a very expensive problem to solve once the River gets messed up. So, if we can keep the river doing its natural thing where it can flood. It can meander. It can, you know, it's obviously incredible wildlife habitat and it's also great for carbon sequestration. The course of the River has been changed by an adjacent landowner and we'd like to see it restored to the original sort of longer slower riverbend again. Rivers in the West are supposed to sort of meander and braid, and they move slowly.”
They’ve successfully raised the money to buy a conservation easement from the current landowner, which Fox says is the first step in the process. The next step is to buy the land under the conservation easement and transferring it to the city of Oakley. This way public access will be allowed.
They’ll reach out to everybody in the Kamas Valley explaining the project and asking for financial support. A $15,000 challenge grant has been posted so it allows them to double donations. To finish the transaction, they’ll need to raise $153,000 by about this time next year.
“We will be going out for some grants and things like that. And community support is so important, if we can say in a grant application, that we've had 200 individuals supporting this project, that says to a funding source, wow this is important to the community and it increases their likelihood that they'll participate.”
Fox tells KPCW it was a banner year for the Summit Land Conservancy. She considers placing the Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road under a conservation easement to be one of the highlights. She says the big lesson for her is none of the projects could have been done without every single donation.
“You know, and as I talk to other land trusts in Utah and in other parts of the country, community support is what makes the difference. 1400 people donated to the Osguthorpe campaign. That's a huge number of people. You know it wouldn't have been possible without that kind of community support. Every little bit makes a difference.”
A link to the Summit Land Conservancy can be found on KPCW.org.