Federal designation proposed for Park City ridgeline | ParkRecord.com

Federal designation proposed for Park City ridgeline

A portion of Park City's iconic mountain skyline could receive a federal land designation under a new piece of legislation that was introduced in Congress last week by U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

The Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act was developed through the Mountain Accord process with the help of the Federal Designation Task Force. The Mountain Accord, launched three years ago as a way to negotiate the future of the Central Wasatch Mountains, is a collaborative effort between several agencies, including Summit County and Park City.

Some of the major tenets of the accord aim to preserve the mountains, focus development in urban areas and reduce the number of cars traveling along Interstate 80, according to Laynee Jones, program manager with Mountain Accord.

"We have those high-level principles and then we outlined actions and one of the key actions is we wanted to get this land bill passed. It's a huge deal that Chaffetz was willing to take this on," Jones said. "It took a lot of work to get there and everyone had to make compromises. Not everyone got what they wanted, but everyone felt they had a big win out of this."

The bill preserves approximately 80,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and adds 8,000 acres of wilderness, including 967 acres in Summit County located along the ridge separating Park City and Big Cottonwood Canyon. It would prevent the resorts from expanding on the ridgeline and hinder future proposals for development, ski links or connections.

It allows for the creation of new roads on U.S. Forest Service land, with the intent of implementing transportation improvements in the future. Privately owned land within the area will not be affected, according to a Mountain Accord fact sheet.

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The 967-acre covers 848 acres of land owned and administered by the forest service and 119 acres privately owned land within the U.S. Forest Service administrative boundary. The area includes Crest Trail, upper portions of Red Pine, Dutch Draw, Monitor and Scott Hill. Two of the more significant areas to be included are Lone and Granduer peaks.

More than 2,000 acres of property within the four Cottonwood ski areas, including Solitude, will be placed into a preservation agreement in exchange for more land at the base areas, Jones said. Park City's Deer Valley Resort owns Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

"They have put up some land for trade that Deer Valley owns near Guardsman Pass to get some more land at the bottom of Solitude," Jones said.

While Park City Mountain Resort lies outside of the boundary that is being proposed, it is adjacent to it, Jones said, adding that "this it precludes Park City from ever expanding into this area."

"The intent of this bill and of this designation isn't to change anything. It is really to glue it all in place," Jones said.

Last year when the Summit County Council held a public hearing about the potential designation, most who testified at the meeting spoke in favor of the designation and its protection for backcountry users.

Summit County Council member Chris Robinson said the federal designation provides permanent protection to land that includes valuable watersheds and natural resources. Robinson also said it is a "huge recreational amenity to our county."

"If the Cottonwood Canyons were developed in an improper way, that could push a lot of congestion into Summit County," Robinson said. "By putting boundaries on things, that prevents that from happening.

"This is the culmination of a big part of Mountain Accord," he said. "There are still several other things to be done, such as enhancing transportation and this facilitates that. It's not the end, but it is a big milestone."

To read the bill in its entirety, go to https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5718.