Dick and Gaye Stoner have lived on their Dog Holler Farm in the Hoytsville area since 1975, and on Friday the two finalized an agreement with the Summit Land Conservancy to protect 86 acres of their property that lies on land critical to the Weber River watershed.
Around 2010, the Stoners had the opportunity to expand the six acres of land they had owned since the '70s and buy the neighboring 85 acres of land. The previous landowners had thought about subdividing the land and building six to 10 homes on it, said Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox.
"We thought, if ever, in our dreams, we could purchase the farm, we would like to preserve the land," Dick Stoner said. Going through the conservation process with the Conservancy has been about a three-year process, he said.
The Dog Holler Farm has historically been used for dairy farming, grazing and ranching, but Gaye Stoner, who is an American Horticultural Society Master Gardener, has been growing organic vegetables, herbs, plants and flowers that she sells at the Park City Farmer's Market, according to the Conservancy.
The 86-acre piece of land that has been preserved contains two vital springs that provide culinary water for 10 homes in the area, Fox said. The land is on a year-round stream that feeds into the Weber River and is also an important wildlife corridor, Stoner added.
The preservation of the Stoners' property was made possible by funding from partners such as Vail Resorts and Canyons Resort, the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Richard and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation, the Utah Division of Water Quality, the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation and other private donations.
"Utah has minimal funding for protecting open space, so utilizing partners is crucial for receiving matching funds from [Washington,] D.C.," Fox said.
Because of the great support from private donors, the Conservancy was able to be granted over $165,000 in matching federal funds. The Stoners also agreed to reduce the sale price of the property by 40 percent in making the agreement.
"The fact that the Stoners wanted to donate [this property] is pretty exciting," Fox said. "If we don't have landowners who are interested in seeing their property stay the same, I don't have much to do."
This agreement represents the fourth piece of property to be preserved as part of the Conservancy's Weber River Watershed Initiative, which seeks to partner with willing landowners to preserve crucial land along the Weber River and its tributaries. The fifth agreement Fox said she is hoping to see come to fruition is the 65-acre Siddoway Ranch in Peoa.
The Weber Basin provides 21 percent of Utah's population with culinary and secondary water, and Fox said 50 miles of the Weber River runs through Summit County. Protecting as much riverfront property as possible is one of the Conservancy's goals.
Stoner said he wishes the Conservancy success in its Weber River Watershed Initiative, and added that especially with the soon-to-be-developed sewer system going in from Wanship to Coalville, more development is sure to follow, which makes preservation that much more crucial.
"We have a small window right now to make a difference with conservation," Stoner said. "Because real estate is forever. To preserve land, you have to buy it, own it and protect it in some way."
Fox said that, although the Conservancy receives funding from larger donors, it is individual contributions that help them to finalize agreements such as this.
"Those gifts allow us to do these projects. We couldn't do it without individual contributions," Fox said. "[This project] is critical to the overall health of Northern Utah. We're trying to put together this quilt, and it's one patch at a time."
For more information on the Summit Land Conservancy, visit summitlandconservancy.org.