Basin Recreation suggests Summit County contribute $500,000 toward farm preservation
The Summit Land Conservancy hasn’t saved the Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road from development yet. But, a contribution of $500,000 from Summit County toward the acquisition, like the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District is recommending, would get the land trust that much closer. The seven-member Administrative Control Board of Basin Recreation unanimously agreed to forward a positive recommendation to the Summit County Council to put open space funds toward the conservancy’s purchase of a conservation easement on the Osguthorpe Farm. The 158-acre property is adjacent to Willow Creek Park in the Snyderville Basin.
“The good news is that a lot of people, mostly county employees, have worked really hard to figure out a way where the recreation open space funds can be used on what is essentially a farm preservation transaction,” said Cheryl Fox, Summit Land Conservancy’s executive director. “We are thrilled.”
The Summit Land Conservancy has entered into an agreement with the Osguthorpe Family to purchase a $14.2 million conservation easement to prevent development on the property, which is considered the last heritage farm in the Basin. The land trust secured an $8.8 million federal grant from a Farm Bill program, in addition to the family’s $3.4 million contribution, that will be put toward the acquisition.
Summit County offered $4 million toward the acquisition, but asked for recreation access to the property as part of the agreement. Summit Land Conservancy turned down the county’s offer at the time because the terms would have violated the requirements of the federal grant. But, community members continued to urge the county to use open space funds.
The county and land trust have since reached an agreement that would allow Nordic skiing on the property without compromising the federal grant, Fox said. The exact details of the negotiations won’t be made available until after the Oct. 10 County Council meeting.
“We have been working hard with the Osguthorpe family, Cheryl Fox and Basin Rec staff to come up with a proposal that we feel meets the requirements of the open space bond,” said County Council Chair Kim Carson. “We are really looking forward to finalizing this. It has been a long time coming.”
With the county’s contribution, Summit Land Conservancy will still need $1.9 million to meet what was a $5.5 million funding gap to close the transaction. A crowd-funding campaign and matching grant challenge is expected to launch next month to encourage 1,000 people to contribute $158 apiece. Donors will be entered to win an opportunity drawing for prizes donated by White Pine Touring. A major donor campaign is also underway.
The land trust needs to finalize the transaction in March, with all of the funding in place by the end of February. The original deadline was last March, but the Osguthorpe family took out a loan to extend the deadline.
“The family could have walked away in March since we didn’t raise the $5.5 million,” Fox said. “But, Steve (Osguthorpe) said it would break his heart to see houses on this property so they took out a loan to give the conservancy more time.”
More than 500 donors have contributed more than $3.2 million to keep the transaction alive, Fox said. She said the county’s contribution is a step in the right direction, adding “I hope there are a couple more steps.”
“We are not done,” Fox said. “We are halfway there and if we want to save this land we have to keep going. We are getting down to the final dollars and hours. We are really encouraged that the county has found a way where they feel comfortable contributing in this transaction and family feels comfortable with what is being required. But, it’s not done.”
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Officials say a transit shakeup coming next June might allow creative solutions like individual rides to trailheads or streamlined service to ski areas from park-and-rides.