Deal clears way for Gambel Oak land |

Deal clears way for Gambel Oak land

City Hall plans to pay $2 million to purchase mining claims entangling a swath of open space that the local government has long coveted but had been unable to reach a deal for during several rounds of talks stretching since the late 1990s.

The Park City Council on Thursday night, in a unanimous vote that did not draw public comment, agreed to pay $1.9 million to a firm known as Leo-Rhea 1 Partnership and another $100,000 to United Park City Mines, now under Talisker’s corporate umbrella, for the mining claims on the Gambel Oak open space.

Gambel Oak encompasses about 90 acres of land stretching between lower Deer Valley and the Aerie. A popular trail climbs through the parcel, which is controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Rep. Rob Bishop, the Republican congressman who represents Park City, has sponsored legislation that would transfer the land to the Park City government. It was up to City Hall to negotiate for the mining claims, resulting in Thursday’s deal.

Tom Bakaly, the Park City manager, said on Thursday that the Senate could consider the legislation as early as November. He said he was unaware of opposition in the Senate. The House has previously passed the bill. The president must sign the bill if it passes the Senate.

A deal for the mining claims was anticipated for some time but the price tag was guarded until this week.

People who hold mining claims typically do not own the land but have rights to the minerals underneath. The claims sometimes complicate land deals since they usually must be considered as a sale for the surface ground is negotiated. There are such claims scattered throughout Park City, which was dominated by the silver-mining industry through much of its history.

The claims on the Gambel Oak parcel became significant in 1999, when the Air Force was considering plans to build a military hotel in Park City. There was talk at that time that City Hall could trade a piece of land at Snow Creek to the Air Force to build a hotel in exchange for the Gambel Oak land.

That deal then seemed to have support at City Hall and with the Air Force but as the talks became more detailed the significance of the mining claims was realized. In 1999, Chris Cannon, the Republican congressman who represented Park City then, told The Park Record, "I think we all misunderstood the value or potential value of those mining claims . . . The people that hold those mining claims think they’re very valuable."

City Hall plans to use funds from a $10 million open-space bond passed by voters in 2002 to pay the $2 million. Once that money is spent, the government will have about $1 million in bond money left. Park City voters on Election Day will decide whether to authorize another $20 million in open-space bonds.

Dave Nilsson, who represents the Hurley family, which holds the Leo-Rhea 1 Partnership mining claim, said after the Thursday vote that the agreement resulted from a "long, complicated negotiation." He refused to discuss the details, including the partnership’s initial asking price.

Nilsson said the mining claims date from the 1930s and, in the past, the Hurley family held hundreds of claims. He said the family is pleased that regular Parkites will benefit from the deal by obtaining the open space.

"The family is happy there’s a resolution," he said. "We’ve been working on it for so many years."

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