Summit Land Conservancy ends 2018 with finalization of two conservation easements | ParkRecord.com

Summit Land Conservancy ends 2018 with finalization of two conservation easements

The Summit Land Conservancy is ending the year on a high note.

The land trust organization recently closed on two conservation easements that, combined, will protect more than 360 acres from development in Tollgate Canyon and Woodland, said Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy. The nonprofit organization works with the community to preserve land and water access.

One of the land deals preserves Rocky Point, a 236-acre property in Tollgate Canyon. The area contains several trails the landowner maintains that connect to a larger network of neighborhood trails, according to a Summit Land Conservancy press release. The release states that the easement will protect aspen groves, riparian areas, and streams and ponds that serve as a habitat for elk, deer and moose.

“The previous owners, Sherman and Elayne Sorensen, had a great love for the wildlife in Tollgate Canyon and opened their land for residents of Silver Creek, Red Hawk and Tollgate Canyon,” said landowner Aristides Ioannides in the release. “As a Silver Creek resident, I was one of the many who enjoyed Rocky Point so when I learned it was for sale I jumped at the opportunity to continue the Sorensen’s stewardship of the property.”

The other property, located along the Provo River in Woodland, is the Summit Land Conservancy’s first project within the Provo River Watershed. It will help preserve water quality and ecological health downstream. The 126-acre Rolling Stone Ranch property is visible from S.R. 35.

“Constantly seeing a variety of wildlife in and around Rolling Stone Ranch reminded us of how important it is to preserve open space for all creatures both large and small,” property-owners Laura and Geoffrey Wyatt stated in the release.

One way the land trust can secure a conservation easement on a property is when the landowners choose to donate their development rights. A deed is then recorded restricting how those properties can be used. But, the property owners continue to own the land as they abide by the easement.

“In the future someone can’t buy that land and say, ‘Here is open space. I am going to build some condos,’” Fox said. “That is not allowed. We go out and look at that property and meet with the landowner every year. The land can’t speak for itself and stuff can be recorded and people can forget, so we are making sure someone is following through every year to ensure this public benefit is there forever.

“What’s really great about both of these is they are people who really love their property and love the wildlife on their property,” she added. “It’s so inspiring.”

When a property owner decides to make an easement donation, Fox said, it is something that is typically discussed extensively within their family. She added, “I would say that every family wants to pass something on to future generations and they really see it as a legacy.”

The Rocky Point and Rolling Stone conservation easements bring the total number of land deals Summit Land Conservancy has closed on this year to five, which does not include City Hall’s pending acquisition of the Treasure land as part of a conservation deal or the work that has been done to preserve the Osguthorpe Farm on Old Ranch Road. Summit Land Conservnacy still needs to raise $1.7 million by March. Fox said the land trust was set to close on two more conservation easements before the end of year, but those transactions were put on hold as a result of the partial government shutdown.

The land trust has increased its capacity in recent years, going from closing about two easements a year to more than five, Fox said.

“I think that can be attributed to my staff and the great people we have on our team. But, it really does come down to community support,” she said. “The Vail Epic Promise grant supports our conservation program, as well a grant from the Park City Community Foundation. Finally, support from individuals in the community really allows us to be available with the necessary expertise and resources when landowners want to save their property. We don’t just fundraise for no reason. We do it for the mission and the mission is preserving open space.”