Large donation seen as crucial to preserving Osguthorpe Farm | ParkRecord.com

Large donation seen as crucial to preserving Osguthorpe Farm

Jennifer Speers, a Southern Utah open-space and conservation advocate, is being hailed as a hero in Summit County.

This week, Speers contributed a $500,000 matching grant to the Summit Land Conservancy. The donation is to help close the fundraising gap needed to secure a conservation easement to preserve the Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road. Speers also made a financial contribution toward Park City's purchase of Bonanza Flat.

The 158-acre property is considered the last heritage farm in the Snyderville Basin. The term refers to past and present agricultural operations, and other amenities such as historic trails, paths and sites.

Cheryl Fox, Summit Land Conservancy's executive director, said Speers recently made a trip to Summit County to visit the property and meet with the Osguthrope family. Fox said Speers commented on the county and Park City's ability to preserve open space, and how central it is to the community's character.

"She is a hero for conservation and she has really done amazing things for the natural environment in Utah, both in Northern Utah and in Southern Utah," Fox said. "When it became clear that we were really under a time crunch with raising this money and, us not sure if we were going to have participation from Summit County, we had to step up and say, 'We think it would be best to keep it as a farm rather than a combination of open space and development.'"

In September, the Summit Land Conservancy announced it had entered into an agreement with the Osguthorpe family to purchase a $14.2 million conservation easement. The land trust secured an $8.8 million federal grant from a Farm Bill program that will be put toward the acquisition. About $3.5 million is still needed before March.

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"I know it sounds like a lot of money, but we are only $3.5 million away," Fox said. "We never thought we would raise this much in the two months since we realized the county seemed pretty serious about wanting so many things that the family couldn't give."

Summit County offered $4 million toward the acquisition, but asked for recreation access to the property as part of the contribution. Fox has said the terms would have violated the requirements of the federal grant.

"Discussions continue, but I do think it would be great if the county could figure out a way to participate," she said. "I understand everyone wants a good value for their money and others understand we are also under the gun."

The land trust is pushing everyone for help raising the rest of the money, Fox said. She encouraged people to talk with their neighbors about the significance of the property and the need to preserve it. She said some people are still under the impression that the farm has already been protected.

She added, "I think people are really afraid of the funding gap and they are afraid to lose that open space."

"I think it would be shame to lose it when we are so close," Fox said. "I think people are nervous about what happens if we don't raise this last $3.5 million. But, I would really like to see a win-win solution for the landowner, the community, and natural resources."