Summit Land Conservancy is partnering with Wasatch area local governments and private landowners to preserve a 78-acre parcel called the Mountain Spa located in Midway. It’s a unique coalition of interests coming together to save open space that would otherwise be slated for homes and development.
Last week, Wasatch County Council and the Open Lands Board approved $300,000 to help preserve more than 30 acres of agricultural land in Midway. This effort supplements the already approved $1.5 million from the Midway City Council and Open Space Committee. Midway residents passed a $5 million open space bond in 2018. The same year, Wasatch County residents approved $10 million.
The 78-acre open space project includes restoring the historic Mountain Spa to a European-style wellness facility, along with preserving 3n-acres in a permanent agricultural conservation easement. Additionally, they must sell four home-site lots within the project.
Courtland Nelson is the Chair of the Midway Open Space Committee. The property is on River Road and Burgi Lane and he says it can easily be seen while driving into Midway from the north.
“It’s got some grazing on it,” Nelson said. “And it's got some historic buildings. It’s got a wetland and then some open lands that have in the past been used for some grazing and other uses. Their request to us was for $1.5 million while one of the conditions was the re-establishment of a commercial spa at the old mountain spa site and this is part of the hotpots Midway is famous for where these thermal waters are exposed and for generations people have taken advantage of that.”
Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox says, with land values skyrocketing in the Wasatch Back, the low hanging conservation deals are long gone. Helping landowners preserve iconic agricultural properties now and in the future takes a lot of ingenuity. She says the goals of the Conservancy are in line with the goals of both Wasatch County and Midway City.
“Our main goal was to facilitate the Midway City’s and the Wasatch County citizen’s goals here,” Fox said. “And their goals were to keep those pastoral views along River Road and Burgi Lane, to have some trail connections and have that open space, that agricultural use protected forever.”
Fox says there are about 20 transactions that need to happen all at once on the same day.
“It’s a whole big machination and that's why this was such an interesting project, is because we had to have all of these different pieces coming together, and all moving forward at exactly the same time. So, while Summit Land Conservancy is working with the open space committees and talking about their priorities and what they need to see on the property, the people who want to rehabilitate the spa are moving forward with their investigations and feasibility studies and geologic studies of the water and that type of thing too.”
Fox says the transaction is not a done deal and they’ll start a fund-raising campaign to supplement the $1.8 million open space bond money allocated by Midway City and Wasatch County.
“We’re protecting 34 acres of agriculture land,” she said. “Those 34 acres are entitled to 60 home units and they're going to get two. In order to reduce that density, that's basically what the open space money is doing. So, it's 78 acres total. It’s really a holistic spa, where you would go and take the waters for your health. That's our main partner. So, they'll end up with 19 acres for their spa and then it will also be a community park public access park on about 8 acres.”
By reducing home density off the agricultural land and increasing resort development with the Mountain Spa, it helps Midway retain their resort commercial tax benefits, which they were at risk of losing due to an increase in housing development in Midway.
They need to raise another $250,000 by Dec. 1. Donations can be made at the Summit Land Conservancy's website.