Park City’s McPolin Farm has new residents: cattle | ParkRecord.com

Park City’s McPolin Farm has new residents: cattle

Bill White Farms employees Craig McKnight, right, and Tyson Woodward herd cattle to a new acre at the McPolin Farm Friday morning. The 110 animals are moved every 24 hours to rotate the land where they graze. Park City officials allowed the cattle on the municipal land as part of City Hall’s wide-ranging environmental efforts.

People in Park City may now enjoy the picturesque McPolin Farm until the cows come home.

City Hall, which owns the farm along the S.R. 224 entryway, earlier in the summer agreed to allow cows to graze on the land, a decision that brought cattle to the grounds for the first time in years.

It is a visual that may surprise drivers as they pass the farm. The cows are easily seen from the state highway and add to the visuals with the white barn and mountains as the backdrop. The farm is seen as a bucolic separation between the heavily developed S.R. 224 corridor in the Snyderville Basin and the beginning of Park City neighborhoods.

Park City acquired the farm in 1990 in one of the municipal government's beloved conservation deals, protecting a historic property along the entryway from development. City Hall over the years has made upgrades to the structures and allowed recreational opportunities like cross-country skiing, but it had not offered the land for grazing. There has not been livestock on the land since the City Hall acquisition.

Park City leaders earlier in the summer, though, saw opportunities through a partnership to allow the grazing. Officials see the grazing as advancing the municipal government's wide-ranging environmental efforts. An electric fence keeps the cattle in a portion of the land.

The conservation restrictions attached to the land allow agricultural uses like the grazing. City Hall and the Summit Land Conservancy, which enforces the restrictions on the land on behalf of the municipal government, worked with Bill White Farms to locate the cattle at the McPolin Farm. The animals arrived in mid-July. There are 110 cows on the land.

Recommended Stories For You

"I hope that people see it as a bit of our heritage returning," said Cheryl Fox, the executive director of the Summit Land Conservancy.

Fox described a number of benefits from putting cattle on the land. They eat weeds and their hooves punch through the thatch, aerating the grass, she said. The manure is a fertilizer, Fox added. The municipal government also sees opportunities to sequester carbon emissions in the soil, something that keeps the emissions out of the atmosphere.

"The whole point here is to enhance the farmland," Fox said.

Officials maintain the agreement to allow the cattle is "not a traditional grazing lease," according to a City Hall report issued in July explaining the program.

"This is using agricultural practices to improve soil health and water quality. We are not maximizing the profitability of the land, rather educating and researching ways to improve agricultural land," the report, which was submitted to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council, says.

Park City continues to pursue a broad environmental program with the goal of reaching a net-zero level in the municipal government's carbon emissions by 2022 and that level throughout the community 10 years later. A program like the one that brought the cattle to the McPolin Farm will likely be a more symbolic step than some of the other moves made by City Hall, like running a fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles and installing solar-energy systems.

Park City leaders see the environmental program as important at a time when there is concern a changing climate could someday threaten the ski industry that is critical to the area economy.