Land deal to preserve Osguthorpe Farm extended
February 27, 2018
Cheryl Fox, executive director of the Summit Land Conservancy, doesn't like cliffhangers. However, that is exactly how she chose to describe the last several months.
Fox has led the land trust's efforts to raise $5.5 million to preserve the Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road from development. The 158-acre property is located adjacent to Willow Creek Park in the Snyderville Basin.
Summit Land Conservancy received an $8.8 million federal grant from a Farm Bill program to put toward the acquisition, but has been scrambling to raise enough money by March to place a $200,000 down payment on the conservation easement to keep the land deal with the Osguthorpe family alive.
Fox announced on Monday that the organization will be able to make the payment this week.
These people want to see the farm protected as a farm, and they are willing to put more of their own money toward that,” Cheryl Foxexecutive director of the Summit Land Conservancy
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"This has really been a tough experience," she said. "But, the community has been so supportive and made so many donations, the family was willing to take on debt so they could pay this obligation in March and keep this transaction open. These people want to see the farm protected as a farm, and they are willing to put more of their own money toward that."
The Osguthorpe Farm has been highlighted by the community as a potential target for conservation for nearly 20 years. However, Summit Land Conservancy recognized the only way to save the farm as land values increased was to bring in federal dollars, Fox said.
"We all love the farm," she said. "But, we are all loving something that belongs to someone else. Someone else pays taxes on it and takes care of it. This transaction and federal grant has allowed us to act on what we had heard as the community's interest to save the last ranch on Old Ranch Road."
Approximately $12.2 million has been put toward the $17.7 million deal between the federal grant and the Osguthorpe family's own contributions, with the intent of protecting and preserving the land for agricultural uses. Fox said an additional 375 donors have contributed $2.5 million since November.
"We knew from the start that the family had an obligation they needed to pay in March," Fox said. "We didn't ever anticipate closing on that entire transaction, but we anticipated being able to meet this obligation."
Fox said a $100,000 gift on Friday left about $10,000 remaining.
"I was in tears because that person came through in really big way," she said.
The ability to make the down payment provides at least another year for the land trust to raise the additional $3 million that is needed to close the transaction.
Fox admitted failed negotiations with Summit County have hindered fundraising efforts. However, she also emphasized that the land trust is in constant discussion with the county about a potential contribution.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said Summit Land Conservancy presented a letter to the county more than a week ago as part of the ongoing negotiations. However, he said there hasn't been much headway.
The County Council has received ongoing pressure from the public to contribute to the acquisition and the Council has said they are willing to make a contribution if certain recreational requirements can be met. Fisher said the requirements are necessary if the county is going to use money from Snyderville Basin open space funds.
"I think both sides are still at the same point they have been at for about the last three or fourth months," he said. "But, at the same time, the Council is very encouraged by the fundraising that has gone on. I think they like what they see on that so far, but the provisions that the Council is working around — recreational amenities — hasn't resulted in a deal yet. Maybe something different will happen without this deadline being an imposition."
Fox said she has been encouraged by the desire from the community so far. She said the land trust didn't start fundraising in earnest until November and has raised $2.5 million since then.
"That tells me that people want to see it saved," she said. "I get calls, letters, emails and kids are collecting money. What that says to me is that this is important to the community. The remaining $3 million is a big number, but I guess the other thing is I am incredibly grateful, as is the family, in the community support that has allowed us to get this far and keep this thing going."