Summit County’s $5.75 million pledge toward Bonanza Flats purchase considered ‘bold’
County contribution helps close $13 million gap that is still needed
February 28, 2017
Last week, Summit County Council members agreed to contribute $5.75 million toward the purchase of the Bonanza Flats acreage.
During a closed session meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, County Council members approved the decision to help finance the purchase of the long-sought acreage, which is seen as a crucial piece of open space land located in Wasatch County, downhill from Guardsman Pass.
"We can talk about this for a long time or we can say there is a need that we can fill right now," said Chris Robinson, County Council member. "This is a good project and it will promote open space and accomplish other goals at the same time.
"What we are agreeing to is not all the way or even halfway there, but it is a good dent in bridging the $13 million gap," he added.
In January, City Hall reached a $38 million deal with the property's landowner to acquire the land as part of the city's open space program. Park City voters had previously approved a $25 million bond prior to the deal. An additional $13 million is needed and the city is required to make a $1.5 million payment toward the purchase option on March 15.
Utah Open Lands is currently leading the nonprofit coalition in private fundraising, along with the Summit Land Conservancy and Mountain Trails Foundation, among others.
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"As of last night the private fundraising total has reached $1.35 million. This effort to preserve Bonanza Flats will not happen without public support," said Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands. "The strong show of support from Summit County is a huge milestone in the campaign.
"Certainly we are over halfway to our goal and, in my perspective, it is a strong show of support that I think speaks volumes to the Park City Council," Fisher said.
While Fisher commended the efforts of Park City and Summit County, she said there are other jurisdictions along the Wasatch Front and Back that need to become involved.
"This is not just recreational land for Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back residents. This is also watershed for Salt City and Sandy," Fisher said. "We still have some time left before the March 15 deadline so if people continue to raise awareness and contribute it adds more voices to the collective call for conservation of this land and that is important."
The Summit County Council has established a "very general framework" regarding the contribution. Robinson said the funds will likely come from the county's open space budget, as well as others.
"We have a way that we believe will work," Robinson said, adding that the donation will not affect the county's services or programs.
Robinson said the details about the funds and any required agreements with Park City will be decided within the next two weeks.
"We are still working on all of that, we just don't have everything fleshed out," Robinson said. "It will probably be a combination of some grants and some land exchanges, among others.
"Utah Open Lands and Park City Municipal are making good progress with fundraising and we wanted to get out and say, 'We are in,'" he said.
Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy, called the contribution "heroic and essential." Fox said it shows other potential partners that Summit County and Park City are united in the effort.
"It's bold because it's never easy and no one ever spends taxpayer money without a lot of consideration. I think that the County Council is really showing a lot of leadership," Fox said. "In order for the city to feel comfortable putting more money into Bonanza Flats they really need considerable support to bridge the $13 million gap."
Fox said while they are hoping about $3 million will come from private fundraising, "there is a big portion that will have to come from government."
"It is not saved yet," Fox said. "We are reaching out to the people who have supported our conservation projects in Summit County, as well as others that we know who might be inversely impacted should development happen there.
"The support from the community has been overwhelming with businesses and individuals who want to support this, but it will definitely be a team effort," she said. "When you have 10 nonprofits working together for one cause shows how valuable that cause is."