99 acres in the Kamas Meadows will be preserved | ParkRecord.com

99 acres in the Kamas Meadows will be preserved

Money partially comes from $50 million voter-approved bond to protect open space

The Summit County Council on Wednesday approved the first conservation easement using general obligation bond money to protect the Andrus family farm, which is located along S.R. 32 about two miles north of Kamas. The county contributed $500,000, partially using funds from the voter-approved $50 million bond to protect open space.
David Jackson/Park Record

There’s a 99-acre property in the heart of the Kamas Meadows that provides spectacular views, protects area drinking water and helps support the Great Salt Lake. A new county partnership will help ensure it’s preserved forever.

The Summit County Council on Wednesday approved the first conservation easement using general obligation bond money, to protect the Andrus family farm, on S.R. 32 about two miles north of Kamas, in Marion. Summit County voters approved the $50 million ballot measure for open space preservation in 2021. The County Council spent much of last year discussing how the funds should be implemented. 

The county contributed a total of $500,000 toward the conservation easement — which restricts how the land can be used, such as prohibiting development, but allows it to remain under private ownership — by combining $250,000 from the GO Bond with $250,000 from Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation funds.

Summit Land Conservancy, which has a longstanding partnership with the Andrus family and brought the project forward to the Open Space Advisory Committee, also secured $1.7 million in federal grant money through the Agricultural Land Easement program and other private foundations to contribute to the conservation easement, according to Executive Director Cheryl Fox. The land conservancy has been collaborating with the Andrus family since 2011 to preserve the property, she said, and the money provided by the county was the perfect funding source.

The Andrus Farm was appraised at $3.5 million, but the family agreed to around $2.2 million for the easement. Fox said it’s rare for landowners to receive the full value of their property, and praised those willing to make such a donation.

“In all of these situations, the hero is the landowner. These people are willing to basically sell us their development rights, and those don’t come back. Once they’re gone, they’re gone,” she said. “These families are always willing to do that, which is an incredible gift. These are people who have been our neighbors for generations. They’ve been good stewards of their land.”

The Andrus family, which has owned the land since 1914, plans to continue using the property for agriculture. Public access is not allowed. The conservation easement did not require public use, and Fox said the public benefit goes beyond access.

Jess Kirby, the county’s public lands manager, agreed, saying preserving the Andrus Farm was a “no-brainer.” The property was high on the list because a conservation easement would help secure water as well as protect the Kamas Meadows watershed and aquifer, preserve agricultural heritage and ensure that stunning views remained unobstructed. Protecting property on the East Side has also been a high priority for the Open Space Advisory Committee.

“We are so lucky to have this open space bond fund. A lot of communities don’t see the value in putting public funds toward preserving, in this case, a piece of private property,” Kirby said. “But we all value that heritage piece. We value the viewshed piece. We value the water piece. It’s something that I think we should be really proud of as a county; that we support open space and conservation in this way. It helps us be mindful of our growth and our development, and preservation of the livelihood that we like to live. It’s why we all moved here.”

Applications for Summit County property owners interested in selling their land or entering into a conservation easement opened last month, and the Open Space Advisory Committee has had a consistent stream of evaluations. Summit Land Conservancy is similarly hearing a lot of interest from local landowners about preserving their properties.

Most requests are for agricultural protection, such as conservation easements, with few property owners looking to sell their land outright. Kirby expects this will help the county to better leverage bond funds, allowing them to stretch further. 

“Things move slowly, so we ask for patience in the community to realize that just because we’re not spending the money right away doesn’t mean we aren’t working on things in the back. There’s a lot in the pipeline right now,” Kirby said.

Fox said her organization is honored to be involved with the first allocation of bond funds and expects the deal will be finalized in the coming weeks. The land conservancy is also planning to kick up its overall conservation efforts this year.

Summit County property owners interested in learning more about how to apply for funds from the $50 million GO Bond should visit https://summitcounty.org/1268/Public-Lands

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