Park City finds snowmobilers, vandals cause trouble in Bonanza Flat |

Park City finds snowmobilers, vandals cause trouble in Bonanza Flat

City Hall acquired Bonanza Flat, a 1,350-acre tract of land in Wasatch County, in 2017. The municipal government prohibits motorized vehicles on the acreage, but people continue to use them despite the ban, City Hall says. Officials also say there has been vandalism on Bonanza Flat.
Courtesy of Park City Municipal Corp.

People continue to use motorized vehicles on Bonanza Flat acreage despite a prohibition of the practice, City Hall said in a recent written submittal to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council, another example of the complexities of municipal ownership of the swath of land in Wasatch County.

The submittal, drafted by Heinrich Deters, who is the trails and open space program manager for City Hall, says “there is still a significant amount of motorized users who completely disregard posted signage prohibiting motorized use on the property.”

The people using motorized vehicles are generally those riding snowmobiles. Deters says a route for safety purposes accessing the Brighton Estates neighborhood nearby the City Hall land is working as intended. Others, however, are using Bonanza Flat for snowmobiling, according to City Hall.

People on motorized vehicles typically access the land from Empire Pass, Guardsman Pass or the spot where the road that travels over Guardsman Pass intersects with Pine Canyon Road, according to Deters.

“ . . . There is still a significant amount of motorized users who completely disregard posted signage prohibiting motorized use on the property,” Heinrich Deters, Park City trails and open space program manager, describing Bonanza Flat

“All of these (areas) are and have been signed noting no motorized use,” Deters said in the submittal to the elected officials.

Deters also addresses ongoing vandalism on Bonanza Flat as well as cases logged as suspected thefts. He says cable gates as well as locks have been cut or stolen. Deters also says a camera posted to monitor wildlife and signs have either been stolen or vandalized. Staffers have approached prosecutors in Wasatch County with the issue.

City Hall enacted a prohibition on snowmobiling on Bonanza Flat after the land was acquired, ending decades of lax enforcement on the acreage. The 1,350-acre Bonanza Flat, with spectacular views of the Wasatch Mountains, became a popular place for recreational snowmobiling over the years. Some recreational snowmobilers are displeased with the City Hall prohibition, creating friction between the municipal government and the riders.

Deters said City Hall has posted surveillance cameras in approximately four places for security purposes. They are situated in areas of Bonanza Flat where snowmobiling is a “chronic” issue and where there have been vandalism reports, Deters said.

The submittal to the elected officials says City Hall has notified people of the prohibition and pursued educational efforts. Those will continue, but staffers intend to move “into more of an enforcement mode with Wasatch County,” Deters says. Staffers plan to post signs indicating there is video surveillance of the land and put up additional surveillance cameras, the submittal says.

The snowmobiling prohibition follows longtime City Hall policy that bars motorized uses on municipal open spaces. Snowmobiles are also prohibited from City Hall acreage like the McPolin Farm and Round Valley. Leaders over the years have set aside the open spaces for non-motorized uses like hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There are concerns about the environmental impact of snowmobiles, the impact on wildlife and the possibility of conflict between the various user groups.

The submittal, meanwhile, indicates City Hall staffers have posted signs restricting parking on a Bonanza Flat trailhead of the Mid Mountain Trail. Ten spots are set aside for people parking for a day while 15 spots are for people parking for up to 72 hours. The submittal says the authorities have not issued a parking citation for a violation of the trailhead parking rules.

City Hall acquired Bonanza Flat in 2017 for $38 million, to date the municipal government’s most expensive conservation deal. The acquisition extinguished the possibility of major development that was envisioned as a golf-and-ski community. The $38 million is expected to be surpassed when City Hall finalizes the planned $64 million acquisition of the Treasure acreage on a hillside overlooking Old Town.

The management of Bonanza Flat will be the most complex of the City Hall open spaces based on the sheer size as well as the competing interest groups. Park City officials and the not-for-profit Utah Open Lands continue to craft a document known as a conservation easement that will outline the types of uses that will be allowed on the land. The organization is also assisting as a management plan is created for Bonanza Flat.