Summit Land Conservancy hopes to raise $200,000 for land purchase in Oakley | ParkRecord.com

Summit Land Conservancy hopes to raise $200,000 for land purchase in Oakley

Project would preserve 23 acres along Weber River

The Summit Land Conservancy recently entered into a contract to purchase 23 acres along the Weber River in Oakley. The organization has started a capital campaign to raise $200,000 before closing on the property on Jan. 31.

Oakley Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme says he wants to keep his town "as rural as possible" and will support any endeavor that aims to preserve the aesthetics of it.

The Summit Land Conservancy recently entered into a contract to purchase 23 acres along the Weber River in Oakley to protect river access and preserve water quality. The organization has started a capital campaign to raise $200,000 before closing on the property on Jan. 31.

Woolstenhulme, along with several members of the Oakley Town Council, recently wrote a letter to the Oakley residents asking for support.

"I am all about trying to keep development out of there," Woolstenhulme said. "This would give us an opportunity for the town to have a place where people can picnic and stuff. I still need to look at their plans and the costs, if anything, to the city. But anything that keeps a whole bunch of houses from going in: I am for it."

The project is the seventh purchase in the conservancy's Weber River Watershed Initiative to protect riverfront and fishing access, water quality and wildlife habitat. The organization works with the community to preserve land and water access.

The 23-acre property borders the Weber River for half of a mile. It 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 public park, according to Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy. It is the first time the conservancy has purchased the fee title to a property.

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"As property values increase and farms and ranches are purchased by people who want to develop them it changes that landscape. Our goal is to work with landowners to make sure the land is kept whole. This is in no way, shape or form a taking," Fox said. "We envision this land preserved as a 20-acre natural park, with a trail along the river, shaded by cottonwoods. The river can be enhanced to improve downstream water quality and trout habitat."

Fox said the property is in a central location that residents could easily access. She compared it to Round Valley in Park City "while it is a whole lot smaller, think about what that space is for Park City."

"Riverfront property is super valuable and we need to find people who are interested in really making sure the community has access to the kind of open space and natural areas that have been traditional over there," Fox said.

The organization received an anonymous matching grant for the first $20,000, but "is "not quite halfway there," Fox said. She added that the Road Island Diner in Oakley has been "very supportive," along with the residents who have also made donations.

"If we don’t raise the $200,000, we’re going to have to find additional collateral for our loan.  We’re working on what that might be, just in case," Fox said. "The fact is that in Eastern Summit County when the community wants to save something there is no public way to do it. That is the purpose of any nonprofit organization to step in when the community needs something.

"I like to say we are trying to protect human habitat and we have to be proactive in saving this stuff," Fox said. "It's not just for the people of Oakley."

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 website. 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/. To make a donation, visit Summit Land Conservancy's donation page and select Oakley River Corridor Project at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/wesaveland.