Parkite’s legacy preserved
Wendy Fisher has championed open space for years and knows firsthand how easy it is to get caught up in the daily fight to protect Summit County’s landscapes.
Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, said the organization thrives on the work of its members, adding “We don’t do it alone.” The nonprofit land trust conservancy aims to preserve open space by working with private landowners, government agencies and communities.
But, Fisher said, she is seldom given the opportunity “to demonstrate in a big and celebratory way the people who I couldn’t do my job without.”
“And one of those people is Sally Elliott,” Fisher said. “You don’t get that opportunity very often to say thank you to people who you consider to be mentors and the people who you know spend time bolstering Utah Open Lands instead of doing other things.”
Utah Open Lands honored the longtime Prospector resident and fixture in city and county politics on Oct. 8 with the organization’s Legacy Award for Leadership at the Hi Ute Pancake Preservation Celebration. More than 100 people attended.
“I’m sure Sally wouldn’t call it a sacrifice, but you’re often taking time away from something else, and Sally has taught me a lot of things over the years,” Fisher said. “She taught me the importance of fighting the good fight, and of diplomacy, and to be able to honor her was a great moment.
“We gave her the award and then put her to work flipping flapjacks in true Sally fashion,” she said.
Utah Open Lands was the first local land trust in the state more than 25 years ago when Summit County was one of the five fastest growing counties in the nation, according to the organization’s website. Fisher said the nonprofit formed after several different individuals within the community, including Elliott, came together to preserve the space before it was overrun with development.
The Legacy Award for Leadership is, first and foremost, about honoring people who have continued to participate with the organization and through their leadership have left a Legacy of open space protection, Fisher said.
“This year there was just no question with the board of directors that Sally Elliott deserved it,” Fisher said. “Beyond what she has done for Utah Open Lands, part of what this award is about is recognizing the leadership that this person exemplifies. From our perspective, leadership in a legacy capacity is really about making a fundamental and pivotal difference.”
Elliott said she was “just astounded and thrilled to death” to be honored. She has been involved with preservation and conservation projects for 26 years. When she first ran for elected office in 1989, the basis of her campaign stressed the importance of maintaining a certain quality of life.
“It’s just one of those issues that hadn’t yet emerged, but I knew how important trails and open space were to people” Elliott said. “It is part of the reason why we live here and we have also lost some key parcels over the years.”
In the early 1990s, Elliott and others helped negotiate the purchase of the McPolin Farm. She added, “We didn’t really know what we were doing.” From those efforts, several committees emerged to purchase and recommend open space parcels for preservation.
“Many, many, many people have played a role in the open space that we have,” Elliott said. “I haven’t don’t anything all by myself. I didn’t come into this knowing a thing. It’s just one of the little pieces of the puzzle that fits together with everyone working on shared goals. All of that has made us the really unique destination that we are.”
Elliott was also instrumental in helping organize the Mountain Trails Foundation.
Chuck Klingenstein, a Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner and former member of the Utah Open Lands board of directors, said Elliott has been the glue that has brought together some of the key players in preservation.
“One of the great joys over the years has been working for and with Sally. She is such a motivator and she doesn’t just say it she really leads the charge to get things done whether it is open space or mining history and preservation,” Klingenstein said.
“Utah Open Lands honoring Sally is so appropriate because she has been in the middle of it for so many years and been a crucial part of open space and outright acquisition,” he said.