The bucolic acreage of the McPolin Farm and the nearby the Richards Ranch along the final stretch of the S.R. 224 entryway has long been a point of pride for Park City leaders, perhaps the most visible example of City Hall's conservation efforts.
And some people might still look with wonderment when they see the open fields so close to Park City neighborhoods. City Hall years ago protected the land from development, and the local government has continued to allow hay cultivation on part of the acreage at the McPolin Farm.
Park City in recent weeks took steps to formalize the relationship with Frank Richards, the longtime Parkite who cultivates hay at the McPolin Farm. Richards uses the hay he harvests to feed his horses.
Hay production has occurred on the land for decades. City Hall says it wanted to ensure it follows its own procurement rules in allowing the production to continue. It recently requested proposals from people interested in producing hay on two City Hall-owned pieces of land. The request indicated City Hall wants to "continue historical agricultural uses" on the land.
Richards submitted the only response to the request. Richards and his family have cultivated hay on the parcels for decades. The hay is harvested once a year in the fall.
The better known parcel is the McPolin Farm. The other one is located on both sides of S.R. 224 at Meadows Drive. It is known as the Peterson parcel. The Peterson parcel sits just south of the McPolin farm acreage.
Heinrich Deters, who is the trails and open space manager at City Hall, said he anticipates the municipal government will negotiate a lease with Richards allowing him to continue producing hay.
Deters said the lease will not involve monetary compensation to City Hall. The municipal government will also not pay a provider for the hay production, he said.
It will cover a term of one year with the possibility of annual renewals on each of the parcels, he said. The lease will require that the hay produced on the land is used in a way that ensures Richards does not make a direct profit. Deters said using the hay to feed the horses owned by Richard will be allowed under the lease.
The agreement, meanwhile, will allow Richards to keep horses on a prized piece of open space owned by City Hall so long as he is alive. City Hall purchased the open space from Richards. It is known as the Richards Ranch.
Deters said he anticipates the agreement will be brought to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council as early as late May. The request issued by City Hall for a hay producer and the talks with the Richards family have not been widely publicized. It seems likely like that an agreement between the two sides will be reached with little difficulty.
Richards, who lives in Thaynes Canyon, said he is happy that the two sides are working toward an agreement.
"I've been taking care of it for many years. It's been a satisfactory arrangement," Richards said, adding, "I am pleased I can continue . . . It's a good thing for them. It's a good thing for me."
The McPolin Farm spreads through 84 acres. Of that, hay production occurs on approximately 15 acres. Upward of four acres of the 27-acre Peterson parcel are used for hay production.
The land is critical to Park City's efforts to keep a rural feel to the S.R. 224 entryway. Park City leaders long ago started purchasing land along the entryway for conservation purposes. They wanted to create a largely undeveloped buffer between Park City neighborhoods and the fast-growing Snyderville Basin.
The purchase of the McPolin Farm, with its iconic white barn surrounded by fields, has been seen for years as the critical conservation deal along the S.R. 224 entryway.
Deters said the land where Richards produces hay and the open space surrounding that acreage offer a "pastoral feel" to the entryway. People enjoy the openness of the land, he said.
"We still want to feel like we live in a small town," Deters said.