Snyderville Basin Recreation District hopes to reduce fire risk in Summit Park open space
March 6, 2019
Whenever officials identify the communities in Summit County that would be the most susceptible to a devastating wildfire, Summit Park often rises to the top of the list.
The homes in Summit Park are built in heavily wooded areas with steep terrain and limited road access, where traditional forest management treatments are often not feasible. It is recognized as one of the places in the county that would be most threatened by blazes.
The Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District met with the Summit County Council last week to discuss a five-year fire management plan that aims to reduce the fire risk in Summit Park, particularly a project to perform fire mitigation on a 380-acre open space parcel the district owns.
"It is our responsibility as the Recreation District to take care of the forest the best we can, not only for forest health, but for safety," said Jessica Kirby, open space management supervisor for the district.
The Recreation District reviews its open space forest management plan every five years and in 2018 created a revised plan for Summit Park with the help of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Department of Agriculture and the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. The district recently drafted a proposal for a Watershed Restoration Initiative grant to help fund a fire management project for the Summit Park open space.
Kirby told Council members the district is asking for about $720,000 through the grant to treat 60 of the more than 300 acres. Treating the entire area over a five-year span would cost about $3.3 million, she said.
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"Not all fire management costs this much when you have better access," Kirby said. "Summit Park has some 30 degree slopes and we don't want to just be dropping trees and having them roll down on the neighbors."
Homeowners associations in Summit Park and Pinebrook support the Recreation District's fire management plan. Representatives of the associations wrote letters to the grant committee to support funding the project.
"Over the last few years we have had multiple homeowners associations reach out to us and they have been really interested in what we are doing," Kirby said. "They want to know how we can extend our reach to help them do their own mitigation and bring education to the neighborhoods. It is the neighborhood's responsibility have defendable spaces."
Kirby also encouraged the County Council to consider ways the county could help alleviate costs for residents to create defensible spaces around their homes. She said taking care of forested landscapes is expensive, adding "It's hard to go door-to-door and tell people to mitigate their threat."
"We won't stop fire, we just want to create spaces where firefighters can come and fight them," Kirby said.
County Council members commended the Recreation District's efforts. Councilor Doug Clyde also encouraged homeowners to consider what they could do on their own to make their homes safer.
"I've been up on site and concur that this is essential and timely," he said during the meeting.
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