Wasatch County pledges money toward Bonanza Flats deal | ParkRecord.com

Wasatch County pledges money toward Bonanza Flats deal

The $25,000 contribution adds to ‘collective effort’ to acquire acreage

by Jay Hamburger

Wasatch County leaders on Wednesday agreed to contribute $25,000 to the acquisition of Bonanza Flats, funding that, though small when compared to the price tag of $38 million, is seen as important to the overall efforts nonetheless.

The Wasatch County Council approved the contribution in the weeks after discussing Bonanza Flats with Park City leaders and open space activists. It was not clear at that point whether Wasatch County would contribute and, if it did, at what dollar figure. The fundraising did not depend on a contribution from Wasatch County. Funding from Wasatch County, though, is symbolic since Bonanza Flats is located in that county.

Utah Open Lands, a not-for-profit organization heavily involved in the Bonanza Flats efforts, pledged $25,000 in matching monies. The organization must raise the $25,000 to match the Wasatch County contribution.

Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, was pleased with the decision by Wasatch County. She said people who live in Wasatch County use Bonanza Flats for recreation purposes and there are watershed benefits in Wasatch County if the land is preserved as open space.

“It adds to the broader collective effort. It’s another voice calling for the conservation of this land,” Fisher said, adding, “There’s a recognition this landscape is broader than just one jurisdiction.”

Wasatch County does not have an open space program like the ones in Park City and Summit County and instead has secured land for conservation purposes through development agreements with landowners.

There were also questions about whether Wasatch County would participate financially in the acquisition since officials there have mentioned the foregone property taxes to the county if the land is left as open space instead of being developed. There have been ideas for years to build a golf-and-ski project on the land, but a project has never advanced.

Wasatch County has said the foregone property taxes could eventually cost the county coffers $6 million annually. Fisher said Wasatch County’s financial role in the acquisition represents a “dramatic amount of money” when the contribution is coupled with the lost property taxes.

Wasatch County, meanwhile, has said it wants to be involved as a document known as a conservation easement is crafted. An easement will outline the restrictions on the land once it is set aside as open space. Park City is anticipated to lead the efforts to craft an easement, but it seems Wasatch County could influence the final document as a financial contributor to the acquisition.

The 1,350-acre Bonanza Flats is located downhill from Guardsman Pass, just outside the Park City limits. Park City reached the $38 million deal for the land with the property owner, a firm called Redus, LLC. Voters inside Park City approved a $25 million ballot measure to acquire Bonanza Flats.

Supporters of the acquisition are attempting to raise the $13 million needed beyond the funding authorized by Park City voters, securing contributions from a collection of government institutions and private citizens. Not-for-profit organizations are also heavily involved in the efforts. There is a June 15 deadline.

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