Summit County urged to act on open space bond: ‘It’s been 7 months’
Summit County voters approved a $50 million open space bond in November. The county expects to receive the money this month and is setting up committees to spend it — applications to serve are open until June 15. But some residents say time is wasting.
The locals are getting restless.
Voters across Summit County supported an open space bond in November. It was sold as a means to stop land from being developed, especially in the Kamas Valley.
One resident of the Valley, Jan Perkins, told the Summit County Council earlier this month that time is ticking.
“I say this respectfully. You know, I like all of you, very much. But regarding the open space bond, it's been seven months," Perkins said. "The public made land conservation a priority.”
That same meeting, Summit County Manager Tom Fisher told the council he expects the $50 million to arrive by the end of June, and that the county received a favorable interest rate on the bonds, 2.74%.
After the ballot measure passed, the county established multiple committees to determine which projects to finance. New advisory groups will represent South Summit, North Summit and the West Side, including Park City.
The committees are charged with determining what residents in each area value for conservation efforts, whether it’s public access for cross-country skiing trails or preserving farms. That will inform how a different committee will evaluate potential projects in those areas.
Applications to serve in the advisory groups will be accepted until June 15 and are available on the county’s website. Three members from each advisory group will be selected to form the Open Space Advisory Committee, which will evaluate potential projects and make recommendations to the county manager.
Perkins urged the council to simplify the process and start acting to conserve land — and in turn, to protect water.
“Because as you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of people drink the Kamas Valley water," she said. "And I'm talking to you Snyderville and Park City. Please pay attention. You drink the water from a lake under the Kamas Valley meadows. Water quality in the Kamas Valley watershed directly affects you, along with us.”
Doug Evans is a former mayor of Oakley who helped found the Mountain Regional Water District, the largest water supplier in the Snyderville Basin. He said development near water bodies has a significant effect on the quality of that water.
“The Kamas Meadow is very saturated. I think of it kind of more like a sponge. The whole meadow area that you see when you go through Kamas Valley has a very high water table and it absorbs a lot of water," he said. "And so the best thing we can do to protect the water quality is to leave it like it is.”
That’s where the open space bond money comes in. Councilors have highlighted the need to leverage those funds so they’re matched or exceeded by other sources in land deals.
Officials envision conserving land by buying it outright or buying its development rights in an arrangement known as a conservation easement. That’s what was used to preserve the Osguthorpe Farm in the heart of the Snyderville Basin. Perkins and Evans said they hope the Kamas Meadow has a similar fate.
Evans said he applied to serve in the South Summit Regional Advisory Group.
“I just would like to see open space protected that benefits the health of the county, and of the wildlife. So I really would like to see land that contributes to improving the water quality protected," he said. "And there's a lot of that, and it would take a long time. But you just kind of start a bit at a time.”
Fisher said, as of Friday, 39 people have applied to serve on the committees, which have 21 spots. No conservation deals using the bond money have yet been announced.