Henefer family helps preserve riverfront land | ParkRecord.com

Henefer family helps preserve riverfront land

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Kent Fawcett loves raising sheep and cattle and growing hay on riverfront land his family owns in Henefer.

"When I was a kid we also used to spend a lot of summer days up there fishing and what not. Then as I got older we had a picnic area where we raised my boys," Fawcett said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "My boys were always about catching frogs."

The time when the Fawcett family purchased the land in 1907 was more carefree.

"The piece of property has not just been a place a for a farm, but with the river that runs around and through the property, it has always been a place where we go up and get a way for a little bit," Fawcett said.

By permanently protecting the 42 acres along both sides of the Weber River, the Fawcett family hopes others will continue to see elk, bald eagles and sand hill cranes in the North Summit area. On July 14, Fawcett signed off on an agreement with the Summit Land Conservancy to protect the property with a conservation easement.

"In essence, we’re buying the development rights off the property," Summit Land Conservancy Executive Director Cheryl Fox said in a prepared statement. "The family made a substantial donation by reducing the cost of those rights."

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The transaction was a relief for Fawcett.

"I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to do with this property now," Fawcett said. "I know exactly what I’m going to do with it and what’s going to happen to this property for generations to come."

The Fawcett family can now afford to keep their land as they have for a century.

"With any piece of property, you can always make more money developing your property than you can farming your property, if it’s in the right location," Fawcett said. "I don’t have to make that decision now."

The family may continue to farm the land, pass it on to their heirs or sell the property to another rancher, Fox explained.

. The land has two natural river beds, which is rare for a stretch of the Weber River that has seen extensive channel engineering, Fox said.

The Summit Land Conservancy spent a year raising money to protect the ranch, she explained.

"We found partners who shared the family’s commitment to maintaining agricultural uses, wildlife habitat, clean water and scenic open space," Fox said.

Partners included the state Division of Wildlife Resources Habitat Council, the state Division of Water Quality, the Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation Committee, the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation, the Mellen Foundation and Geary Construction.

She said High Country Fly Fishers and the Stonefly Society, which are local chapters of Trout Unlimited, also made contributions. Other funds used to buy the easement came from the 1% for Open Space program in the Park City area.

"Forty years ago, a property owner in rural Summit County had a dream and two choices: the dream was to leave their children a legacy of land, regardless of size, that had brought many days of hard work and fulfillment to the family," Fawcett said in a prepared statement. "The choices were to continue to farm the property with minimal return on investment or develop and sell the property into the housing market."