The Summit Land Conservancy is close to finalizing two more conservation easements that will help ensure trail access and wildlife habitat is protected. The two easements total 268 acres.
One of the easements, Risner Ridge, encompasses 53 acres in upper Park Meadows and provides a connectivity corridor to the Quarry Mountain easement. It also features the Cove Trailhead and serves as one access point to the Round Valley open space.
Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox said that, a couple years ago, nearby residents approached the organization saying that Park City owns the open space at Risner Ridge and that an easement should be put on it to ensure it doesn't get developed.
"We have to put easements on properties that have conservation value," Fox said. "[Risner Ridge] is noticeable. It's not a peak, but it's an undeveloped piece of land you can see from [State Road] 224, Prospector and [S.R.] 248."
Fox added that Risner Ridge serves as important wildlife habitat and is crucial for the nearby view shed. Since Park City already owned the parcel, Summit Land Conservancy did not have to raise money to protect it. The only funds that needed to be raised were $48,000 for permanent stewardship and legal defense.
"There has to be funding over the long run that says someone will check on the property. Every time we accept a conservation easement, we're accepting responsibility," Fox said. "We have to ensure we have money that is permanently set aside to fulfill those responsibilities.
The process of getting the conservation easement for the Gamble Oak parcel, which is comprised of 215 acres above April Mountain and The Aerie, has taken even longer, Fox said.
Park City had to purchase mining rights outright from some individuals to secure part of the parcel, while some of the land was given to the city by the Bureau of Land Management. Three separate parcels overall had to be put together to form the Gamble Oak parcel, Fox said.
Fox added that Gamble Oak has very important trails in it and connects into Lost Prospector. It is also visible from everywhere in Old Town to lower Deer Valley, she said.
Again, the Summit Land Conservancy only had to account for the costs for permanent stewardship and legal defense, although they were not without big donors.
The Wildlife Protection Society made a "very generous contribution," Fox said, while the Harry S. Reid Memorial Fund and the Backcountry.com Charitable Trust gave funds as well.
Fox especially wanted to thank the elected officials and staff of Park City in their dedication to securing these conservation easements.
"The city has been really forward-thinking in all of this. [They] have been willing to go the extra mile," Fox said. "Park City gets it that open space is critical to our economy, and making sure it's permanently protected is critical."