Ranch Place residents want to help save Osguthorpe Farm in Snyderville Basin
January 4, 2018
Julian Castelli has lived in Park City with his family for 10 years and has always appreciated the Old Ranch Road area in the Snyderville Basin. The Castelli family walks their dogs in Willow Creek Park and rides their bikes along Old Ranch Road.
Castelli moved to Ranch Place near the Osguthorpe Farm about two years ago and is currently the president of his neighborhood's homeowner's association. He recently learned about the Summit Land Conservancy's desire to preserve the 158-acre property his family enjoys so much under a conservation easement.
"Like most people, I didn't know exactly how a lot of the conservation efforts worked," he said. "We live near the farm and we always hoped it would be preserved and always voted for the open space bonds when they came up. This was one of those things where we were always wondering and hoping they would never sell it and it gets developed."
When Castelli and his neighbor Sean Morgan learned the Summit Land Conservancy still needed to raise money to close the land deal, they decided to organize a group to help, called Defenders of the Ranch. Summit Land Conservancy secured an $8.8 million federal grant from a Farm Bill program that will be put toward the acquisition, but an additional $5.5 million is required before March 2018.
The Summit County Council offered $4 million toward the acquisition, but the Summit Land Conservancy did not accept the offer because the county's requests tied to the donation were in conflict with the federal funding requirements.
Castelli said he organized the group to help raise awareness about the land deal and funds. They meet weekly. He said most people don't realize the Osguthorpe Farm is in "danger of going away or, maybe even worse, feel it has already been saved."
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"We realized we have to get the word out," he said. "Most people I talked to say they had no idea the farm could be sold. We also want to let the Council know that a lot of people really care about this. We voted for the BOSAC (Basin Open Space Advisory Committee) bond have and we want our money spent to save this farm. If there is something better that we don't know about, tell us because the deal appears it is about to fall through the cracks."
Defenders of the Ranch started an online petition on Change.org that has amassed more than 1,000 signatures since it was posted about two weeks ago. Petitioners from Livingston and Heron in Montana, Kanab, Moab, Kamas and Park City have signed it as a show of support.
Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy, said the community has shown an outpouring of support. She said the organization supports the Defenders of the Ranch group and thanked it for increasing community outreach.
"We've seen this in many of our conservation transactions over the last few years, including with the Library Field and Risner Ridge," she said. "It helps people know that this is a potential save they can help with. It's great to see the community get involved. We can do this. Summit Land Conservancy is committed to it. We have $4 million left to raise and we would like to keep the County Council at the table."
County Council members have said they are interested in preserving the property and are working with the Summit Land Conservancy to reach a deal. However, Council members have also emphasized that they are interested in recreational opportunities at the property.
"We have to find that balance between what the federal dollars require and what others might desire, and I don't know if that balance can be found," Fox said.
Morgan, co-founder of the Defenders of the Ranch, said he has been keeping his eye on the property and its potential to be lost to development for several years. He said it is "really important" to the neighborhood. Once he heard about the potential to secure a conservation easement, he immediately donated towards the cause.
"We have heard from the county that they have to get a good value to use those funds, and they have to benefit the greater community and totally agree that's why the funds are there," he said. "That's what I'm trying to get the community to speak up about."
Morgan emphasized the urgency of the matter and encouraged more people from neighborhoods outside of Ranch Place to become involved.
"Park City folks and Summit County folks love their open space, and we have an opportunity right here and right now to save some," he said. "If we don't take advantage of this opportunity, it is lost. We'd love to see it stay with the farmer or within an easement, and for it to remain perpetually in this agriculture state it is in now."
For more information about the group, find them on Facebook at Save the last farm on Old Ranch Road or contact members at SaveTheLastFarm@gmail.com. To view the online petition, go to https://www.change.org/p/summit-county-council-save-the-last-ranch-on-old-ranch-road.
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