Park City plans for Bonanza Flat won’t lift ski industry | ParkRecord.com

Park City plans for Bonanza Flat won’t lift ski industry

Park City and the not-for-profit Utah Open Lands continue to craft long-range plans for the City Hall-owned Bonanza Flat, a 1,350-acre swath of land in Wasatch County. The municipal government expects to put tight restrictions on the land to ensure the conservation value of the acreage is retained.

Hunters will likely need to target lands other than Bonanza Flat.

And the ski industry should not anticipate a lift from the high-altitude ground in Wasatch County.

Park City acquired the 1,350-acre tract in 2017 in a $38 million deal that was City Hall's grandest conservation agreement and is continuing to craft long-term plans for the land.

City Hall officials and Utah Open Lands, a not-for-profit organization tapped by the municipal government to assist with the efforts, are preparing important documents that will govern the activities that will be allowed and those that will be prohibited.

The documents are not complete, but City Hall officials and Utah Open Lands have offered previews of some of the details in recent weeks as the sides held meetings as well as an open house.

The restrictions that are ultimately placed on the land will be especially notable. It has been expected there would be tight restrictions put on Bonanza Flat since the acquisition was made for conservation purposes. City Hall over the years placed similar restrictions on other large parcels of land acquired for the same purpose.

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A report drafted in anticipation of a recent Park City Council meeting likely offers a preview of the restrictions the elected officials will consider enacting. Those discussions will be held as part of the talks that are expected to result in the approval of a document known as a conservation easement and a separate management plan. The conservation easement and the management plan, when taken together, will essentially detail City Hall's formal vision for the land.

The recent report includes a section outlining three potential prohibitions on the Bonanza Flat acreage, as discussed by a group of stakeholders as well as a committee that has delved into the detailed issues on the land. The potential prohibitions are motorized use, hunting and so-called infrastructure for overhead transportation like ski lifts, gondolas or other systems used by the ski industry.

The three potential prohibitions are seen as crucial to City Hall's argument in favor of the acquisition. Park City voters approved a $25 million ballot measure that funded most of the cost of the acquisition. The ballot measure was promoted as a way to acquire a large, strategically placed piece of land with year-round recreational opportunities and environmental benefits. The deal, meanwhile, was seen as something that blocked the prospects of a major development on Bonanza Flat.

In the months since the acquisition, there have been questions about the activities that will eventually be allowed as well as those that will be prohibited. The potential prohibition of motorized use has received the most attention recently as City Hall, Utah Open Lands and people who live or have property close to Bonanza Flat have engaged in talks about access to the properties. There are many residences that are only accessible via snowmobile in the winter, such as those in a neighborhood called Brighton Estates, and Park City officials and Utah Open Lands are gathering more information about the issue.

The other two potential prohibitions — hunting and ski infrastructure — could draw more scrutiny as the discussions about the Bonanza Flat documents continue.

The recent report says 'No Hunting' signs will be posted on the Bonanza Flat land. It notes, though, that hunting would be allowed if deemed necessary to manage wildlife that is diseased or otherwise a problem. The previous Bonanza Flat owners granted permission to hunt on the land, a Wasatch County official has said, describing concern about a hunting restriction leading to an overpopulation of wildlife and the impact on land adjacent to Bonanza Flat. But Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, argued in an interview hunting and recreational uses envisioned on Bonanza Flat "can come into conflict."

Fisher said there is little hunting on Bonanza Flat as she described the recommendation for the prohibition. Fisher, though, acknowledged the importance of hunting as a tool to manage wildlife. She said, as an example, elk will remain in a location without natural predators for extensive periods. That could lead to the degradation of the land, she said.

"They can eat themselves out of house and home," Fisher said.

The prospects of a prohibition of ski infrastructure are also notable with Bonanza Flat's strategic location in the Wasatch Mountains. The onetime owner of the land — United Park City Mines — years ago saw Bonanza Flat as the potential location of a golf-and-ski development with the possibility of ski access to Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. The City Hall acquisition blocked development, but there has been scattered concern about officials allowing some sort of skiing infrastructure on Bonanza Flat. Park City wants the potential prohibition to assuage the concerns. Fisher said there is not a need for ski infrastructure like lifts on Bonanza Flat since there will not be development there.

"We felt like that is something that has been an issue in the central Wasatch for a long time." Fisher said about ski infrastructure.