Oakley nature preserve begins to take shape
A significant amount of critical work has taken place around the Stevens Nature Preserve, a 23-acre swath of land along the Weber River, over the last year since the Summit Land Conservancy purchased the property as part of the Weber River Watershed Initiative and Oakley River Corridor Project.
The property includes an existing house, which the organization sold in July along with a couple acres of the land, according to Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy. The remaining property is slated to become a publicly owned 20-acre natural park. It will include public trails that are currently being built and will be maintained by the South Summit Trails Foundation, as well as angler access along the river.
“We spent a lot of time last summer and a lot of energy and resources kind of clearing out dead brush and mapping out the trails,” Fox said. “The idea is that this is a little neighborhood spot of green and openness and there is access to the river. We hope that someday we can expand it or, at least, expand the trail up and down the river.”
Nearly a year ago, Oakley agreed to accept the nature preserve. After three years from the date of the agreement, the Summit Land Conservancy will deed the land to the city. However, the conservancy, with the help of the South Summit Trails Foundation, will be responsible for the maintenance of the property.
The Weber River provides water for one-third of the Wasatch Front, as well as the communities on the Wasatch Back. She said protecting the Weber River watershed is one of Summit Land Conservancy’s ongoing missions.
“One of the most cost-effective ways to do that is to keep pollutants out of the water,” she said. “It’s way more expensive to let people build houses up on the river than to have a park. If you can keep those sorts of impacts further away from the river, including the houses, it’s better for the wildlife habitat.” The Weber River watershed initiative is something the conservancy has been working on since 2009.
“When we have a landowner who can help or, in this case, we just bought it because we knew the town was interested in having this public recreation area so it seemed like a great thing to do,” she said. “We have always wanted to be very aware that most of the riverbanks are private property and are owned by someone. People really do need to be respectful of that and understand that it is someone’s house and someone’s property.”
Fox said the conservancy, along with the help of Oakley community members and trails foundations, has been working for the last three months getting the last details taken care of.
“There were a lot of moving parts with this one and we had to go step-by-step, with a lot of help from people in the community,” she said. “It’s been really heartwarming to see.”
Amber Nelson, treasurer for the South Summit Trails Foundation, said members relish the idea of having a connected trail system along the river.
“It can be the crowning jewel for the whole community in terms of access to the river and preserving the watershed,” she said.
Nelson said the Mountain Trails Foundation is donating the time to cut the trail and about half a mile is complete. But, she said the trail won’t be done until after spring.
“We are working on putting a water crossing and we are working getting the rest in and dependent on the spring flood,” she said. “The entirety of this trail will be done in two parts. There is a foot walking path and then there is also an equestrian path. The total length is about a mile and a half, and there is also an existing part of this trail that would hopefully be part of the whole project.”
Some existing trails in the Kamas Valley will help provide a connected trail system, Nelson said.
“For us, it’s all about community and how trails bring the community together and going out and being able to walk along the river with kids, grandkids and friends,” she said. “They introduce you to the rest of the community. We love having the conservancy work on some of this with us.”
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