Farm needs lots of money
The McPolin Farm needs repairs, one with a multi-million dollar price tag, and City Hall is considering its options to fix up the landmark property.
The government’s discussions regarding the farm, the city’s best-known icon, have not garnered lots of interest from regular Parkites, but City Hall has devised an eight-page document describing the farm’s history and recommending that the property be used in a similar manner in which it has been in recent years, allowing small community gatherings, for instance.
In an addendum to the report, however, the government outlines an expansive list of improvements that are desired at the McPolin Farm, a set of upgrades that City Hall acknowledges will likely not be completed soon, if ever.
Some of the improvements are minor, with costs estimated at less than $1,000, but others are pricey, with one running an estimated $5 million.
"If the farm went away, I think people would be more than disappointed," says Tevy Vetter, a board member of the Friends of the Farm, an advocacy group. "They’d be really, really upset."
In the list of potential improvements, which was made public by City Hall in early June, the government prices the restoration of the property’s barn at $5 million, arguing that, if the work were completed, the barn would be used and that would bring more revenues into the government’s coffers.
However, City Hall in the report notes the price tag and admits that there has not been a determination made regarding how to use the barn. The list puts the barn restoration into the low priority category.
Alison Butz, who manages City Hall’s properties, says staffers are not recommending that the government invest the $5 million into the barn. Instead, she says, staffers wanted to present the Park City Council with options, including the most expensive.
The $5 million, Butz says, would pay to remove inside bracing that is now needed to keep the barn intact, to secure the barn and make it usable. The bottom floor of the barn has bays where animals were once kept and the second floor has an open floor plan, Butz says.
She says there is a "zero percent" possibility that the $5 million in work will be done soon.
The improvements list identifies a range of work that the government plans. Painting a farmhouse on the property is priced at $15,000, paving a driveway is pegged at between $150,000 and $208,000, access for the disabled is estimated to cost $70,000, assuming that the driveway paving is done, and work needed to extend the cross-county skiing season is estimated to cost $5,000.
Not including the $5 million to restore the barn, the government is mulling $368,000 in improvements on the property, according to the list of improvements identified in the report to the City Council.
Butz says the government has about $221,000 set aside for the farm improvements and she says that the money will be spent over the next 18 months.
"It’s enough to get a lot of our stuff done," Butz says.
She says that some of the work has been delayed, such as the paving plans, to research other options. She says city leaders hope that a solution that respects the open-space aspects of the property is found.
"They don’t want it to look asphalt and paved," Butz says.
City Hall purchased the McPolin Farm, then known as the Osguthorpe barn, and water rights from the Osguthorpe family in a 1990 deal for almost $5 million. The deal, seen by many as City Hall’s most significant open-space purchase, was critical to the government’s conservation efforts.
The farm, sprawling over 80 acres, provides an open-space buffer between development in the Snyderville Basin and Park City’s limits, a strategy that City Hall has long promoted to distinguish Park City from the basin.
The barn is one of Park City’s most-photographed landmarks, providing tourists and professional photographers the historic building with a dramatic, mountainous background.
The farm is a popular spot for cross-country skiers and, recently, City Hall has allowed as many as 12 small events each year, topping out at crowds of 150, on the grounds. The number was agreed to after discussions starting in the late 1990s about how frequently events should be allowed and other details regarding events.
The earlier discussions were largely spurred by City Hall-funded work at the property, including constructing a house modeled after a building that was once on the farm.
Current discussions regarding the farm envision the same number of events, Butz says. She expects to return to the City Council in July for approval of a formalized plan for the farm.
Vetter, the Friends of the Farm board member, says that the schedule provides for a mix of events but that the group is willing to consider suggestions. She sees the events thus far as being of some success.
"Some have gone over really well. Others have not. Overall, fifty-fifty," Vetter says.
Vetter says she expects that the government will eventually fund the most expensive work at the property. The work, she says, will be required to ensure that the barn remains.
"If it falls down, it’s not really a landmark anymore," she says.
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Tourism revenue increased month over month this summer, the Park City Chamber/Bureau reported, but lodging numbers are still off 22% for December. Officials reported a recent uptick in bookings, though, pointing to a modicum of certainty after ski resorts announced their COVID-related opening policies.