Park City finds mining-era hazards on Bonanza Flat | ParkRecord.com

Park City finds mining-era hazards on Bonanza Flat

Three mining-era shafts with surface openings were identified on the Park City-owned Bonanza Flat acreage in Wasatch County during recent studies, something that was considered a likelihood as City Hall acquired the land for conservation purposes.

Park City officials and Utah Open Lands, a not-for-profit hired by City Hall to assist as the municipal government crafts long-range plans for Bonanza Flat, are studying a series of issues necessitated by the City Hall acquisition. One of the studies involves identifying potential hazards like mining-era sites.

Park City was founded as a silver-mining camp in the 19th century, and numerous locations related to the mining industry remain in existence in the vast land surrounding Park City. It was expected that City Hall would need to address mining-era sites in Bonanza Flat.

Utah Open Lands officials recently briefed Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council about the organization's work thus far in Bonanza Flat, briefly mentioning the surface openings as they spoke to the Park City leaders about a broader set of issues.

In an interview, Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, said the three surface openings have been addressed. They had been mapped previously, but their condition was not known in detail until the study.

Soil was put atop two of the openings and a grate was placed across the other one, she said. Fisher said one of the openings was approximately 30 feet deep while the others were shallower.

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"All of them have been capped at this point," Fisher said.

The surface openings posed a "potential safety issue," she said. Bonanza Flat is a popular recreation area, drawing people throughout the year for activities like hiking, bicycling and snowshoeing. The openings could have been hazardous to the "unwitting person," Fisher said.

"Sometimes our curiosity gets the better of us and puts us in harm's way," Fisher said, adding, "I think it was the prudent measure."

Park City officials have long recognized the potential danger of mining-era sites like shaft openings. Steps were historically taken to guard against accidents, but in the early part of the decade City Hall took further measures. The City Council enacted a law requiring landowners with 10 acres or more inside the Park City limits to evaluate their land for mining-era hazards and address any that were found. The law governs land in Park City and does not cover Bonanza Flat since it is located outside the municipal limits.

Leaders at the time enacted the law after several high-profile mishaps involving mining-era openings, including one in which the top of a mine tunnel gave way as someone skied over it and one that involved a dog tumbling down a mine shaft. The skier did not fall into the shaft, making his way out of a depression in the snow caused by the top of the tunnel giving way, while a firefighter rescued the dog.

At the time the law was enacted, an attorney for United Park City Mines, the modern-day successor to a series of historic mining outfits, said the firm had undertaken extensive efforts to address potential hazards on its land. Bonanza Flat was for decades under the ownership of United Park City Mines, but details about steps it took to guard against hazards were not immediately available.

Park City, assisted by Utah Open Lands, is conducting a series of studies into Bonanza Flat as policies are crafted that will eventually govern the land. The inventory of mining-era sites is a part of the overall studies. City Hall and Utah Open Lands expect to draft a document known as a conservation easement that will outline restrictions on uses of the land and ensure the acreage remains as open space. City Hall acquired the land in June for $38 million. Most of the funding was raised through a $25 million ballot measure passed by Park City voters while the rest was raised in a regional fundraising effort that involved individuals, businesses and philanthropic organizations.