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Wasatch County promises open space bond money for North Fields conservation

The Wasatch County Council committed nearly $800,000 of money from an open space bond to preserve roughly 57 acres of open space in the Heber Valley North Fields.
Utah Open Lands
[FILE] The Wasatch County Council committed nearly $800,000 from an open space bond to preserve roughly 57 acres of open space in the Heber Valley North Fields.

Wasatch County pledged money to help preserve open space on a farm this week. But the county’s contribution depends on whether other parties involved can raise the rest of the funds needed.

Utah Open Lands is spearheading a conservation easement on a 57-acre property in the Heber North Fields that belongs to Alan Giles. On Wednesday, the Wasatch County Council unanimously approved $790,000 to pay 20% of the easement cost.

The property lays between West Potter Lane and West 2400 North and is called the Flying A Ranch. It’s home to grazing animals and hay pastures.

Utah Open Lands Conservation Acquisition and Land Protection Director Maeve Stevens told the council the nonprofit wants to prevent development there to preserve the land’s environmental and aesthetic value.

“I think the highlight is that this is a chance to preserve our Utah’s niche heritage,” Stevens said. “Its close proximity to the Provo River helps with water quality issues. Flooding might be an issue this year; properties like this help us with that. And finally, it's a beautiful piece of land.”

Along with the county’s commitment to fund part of the cost, Utah Open Lands plans to secure 50%. According to a county staff report, the Giles family has offered to cut the remaining 30%, $1.1 million, from the price as a donation.

Utah Open Lands doesn’t have that money yet but plans to get it through grants. Council members such as Steve Farrell asked county staff to make tweaks to the agreement to ensure the county doesn’t lose its funding if Utah Open Lands comes up short, but said that shouldn’t stop the county’s participation.

“By going this route, it shows the commitment on the county: we're serious, we want an easement,” Farrell said. “It also shows a seriousness on the property owner that I want to do this and complete it. And the third party, Utah Open Lands, they’re working hard.”

According to Stevens, much of the expected Utah Open Lands contribution hinges on a United States Department of Agriculture grant. She said her nonprofit is confident about that because the Flying A Ranch property aligns with USDA grant requirements.

The county’s contribution comes from a $10 million open-space bond Wasatch County voters passed in 2018.

Farrell is also on the Wasatch County Open Lands Board, which advises the council on how to spend the bond money. He said the county has about $6.3 million of that left.

In the past couple years, it’s also pledged money toward the Kohler farm and Mountain Spa lands in Midway, as well as an expansion of Muirfield Park in Heber City.

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