Summit County Council awards $500,000 grant to the city of Oakley
Funds will be used toward the Oakley River Corridor Project
Last week, the Summit County Council awarded a $500,000 grant to Oakley to help fund the city’s River Corridor Project, an initiative aimed at protecting recreational access and preserving the water quality of the Weber River.
County Council members unanimously agreed to award the grant based on the project’s purpose of creating a “public recreational corridor, with access to public trails and recreational open space on the river,” according to the grant agreement. The county will use money from the Transient Room Tax and Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space funds to pay for the grant.
The grant allowed the Summit Land Conservancy to leverage funds to officially close on the purchase of 23 acres to preserve half a mile of riverfront access as part of the Weber River Watershed Initiative and Oakley River Corridor Project. It is the first time the conservancy is purchasing the fee title to a property, in addition to the development rights.
The project is the seventh of the Conservancy’s Weber River Watershed Initiative in seven years and will help “preserve land along the Weber River and its tributaries, which provide 21 percent of state’s population with irrigation and drinking water.”
“We’re excited that Oakley, the Summit Land Conservancy and the citizens have taken leadership on this project and we think it is a good project to support,” said Chris Robinson, County Council chair.
In the fall, the Summit Land Conservancy started a capital campaign to raise $200,000 toward the land purchase. Contributions from organizations such as South Summit Trails Foundation and a loan from The Conservation Fund helped the organization leverage 140 individual gifts toward the purchase, according to a press release.
“So what really happened here, and one reason the county is to be applauded, is they were able to provide us with a paper document to serve as collateral without spending any money and I think that is pretty brilliant,” said Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy. “
The property includes an existing house, in addition to the development rights for three units. The organization plans to carve off nearly three acres around the existing house to resell, with the remaining property becoming a publicly owned 20 acre natural park called Stevens Park. It will include a public trail and angler access along the river.
“That corridor is so central in the town that it just makes sense and it is a tremendous public benefit for the people of Oakley, those in Park City who drink that water and anyone who likes to go fishing,” Fox said.
In an interview with The Park Record, Doug Evans, former mayor of Oakley, expressed his excitement about the county’s commitment to the project. He said the grant will help create momentum.
“It’s just kind of the beginning of the process to preserve the rivers in the county. These are our lifeblood,” Evans said. “I know we spend a lot of time and money on preserving open space and we need to preserve the water, not only for drinking, but for the many uses that come with that.”
Evan’s said the goal of the project is to provide trails and public access, improve the riverbanks and control the flood risk to enhance the property in the area.
“We have just so much development pushing closer and closer to the river and we don’t want to take away anyone’s property rights, but we are hoping the city of Oakley can work with property owners and give them everything they want, while protecting the river from development,” Evans said. “
The city is planning to hold several public meetings to receive input about the direction and goals of the project.
The Summit Land Conservancy holds 27 permanent conservation easements comprised of more than 3,000 acres of open space in and around Park City, according to the organization. The easements protect large swaths of Round Valley, Quarry Mountain, Empire Canyon, McPolin Farmlands and land along the Weber River.
For more information about the project, go to http://wesaveland.org/donate/support-the-oakley-river-corridor-project/.
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