Park City anticipates status quo on Bonanza Flat for now | ParkRecord.com

Park City anticipates status quo on Bonanza Flat for now

Months of studies of the acreage needed before policies are crafted

by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

Park City last week finalized the acquisition of Bonanza Flat, a 1,350-acre swath of high-altitude land in Wasatch County, after months of fundraising.

City Hall now anticipates it will spend months studying the land and readying a set of restrictions on the acreage. In the meantime, it is unlikely the municipal government will immediately make major changes to the way the land is used.

The acquisition had been the focus of Park City leaders and open space advocates since voters inside the city in November passed a $25 million ballot measure that funded the majority of the $38 million deal. But officials now must craft long-range plans for the management of Bonanza Flat, something that will involve a detailed study of the land, public debates about uses that will be allowed and, ultimately, discussions that will result in the drafting of an instrument known as a conservation easement that will outline restrictions on the land.

It is expected to be a lengthy effort by City Hall, the not-for-profit Utah Open Lands, rank-and-file Parkites and others. Utah Open Lands last week was selected to hold and enforce the Bonanza Flat conservation easement.

Heinrich Deters, who manages City Hall's open spaces, on Monday said staffers plan to outline a series of points and a timeline related to Bonanza Flat in a written communication to Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council next week. It is not clear how detailed a discussion could occur at that meeting.

"It's going to be status quo, basically," as City Hall crafts long-range plans, Deters said, adding, "We're not actively doing anything to stop anything right now."

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The land was privately held prior to the City Hall acquisition, and the owners over the years allowed people onto the acreage. Access to Bonanza Flat for now will remain as it has been, Deters said.

Deters said City Hall will address potential issues like noxious weeds and hazards to public safety once the snow has melted on Bonanza Flat. Officials, though, will not build trails or trailheads this summer, he said. Decisions like those will be made after the study of the land. Deters said Utah Open Lands this summer will conduct detailed research into the current conditions as part of the drafting of the conservation easement.

The research will include an inventory of the natural resources of the land as well as manmade features. Deters said there is a possibility structures that were not a part of the acquisition encroach on the Bonanza Flat acreage. He also said roads controlled by Wasatch County and the Utah Department of Transportation exist on the land.

The inventory will last through the fall and be an important element as the conservation easement is crafted. Deters said the easement could be drafted and then approved by the early spring. The timing leads into the City Hall budget talks of the spring of 2018, when the City Council will create a budget for the 12 months starting in July of 2018. Deters said officials anticipate addressing the management of Bonanza Flat during the budget discussions of next spring.

The discussions about the conservation easement could touch on sensitive topics like hunting. Park City also will likely need to eventually address issues like campfires or other open flames.

There is expected to be interest from a wide range of individuals and groups as City Hall undertakes the studies and crafts a conservation easement. Some will watch to ensure leaders pursue a plan that fits the spirit of the acquisition for open space purposes, while others will have interest in how wildlife will be managed. People with property close to Bonanza Flat, in places like Brighton Estates, have also expressed an interest in the long-range City Hall plans, particularly regarding access to their residences or land.