Summit Land Conservancy plans to purchase 23 acres in Oakley
The Summit Land Conservancy is entering into a contract to purchase nearly 23 acres along the Weber River in Oakley as part of an ongoing effort to preserve water quality and public access to the river in a way that is fair to local landowners.
The project is the seventh purchase toward the conservancy’s Weber River Watershed Initiative to protect “riverfront angler access, water quality, agricultural land, scenic views and wildlife habitat,” according to a press release. The organization works with the community to preserve land and water access.
“The Summit Land Conservancy feels like the Weber River is the most endangered natural resource in northern Utah,” said Cheryl Fox, executive director of Summit Land Conservancy. “This property has so many values to the community, including public access and water quality. By preserving the land we preserve the wildlife and human habitat.
“All of us on the Wasatch Back drink it and about one-third of the Wasatch Front drinks from it, too,” Fox said.
The organization is scheduled to close on the purchase on Jan. 31. It will be the first time the conservancy is purchasing the fee title to a property, in addition to the development rights.
“This is the first time we have had the ability to really jump on something like this,” Fox said. “We hope that we will be able to do more like this when there are situations where the family does not want to keep the property.”
Over the next several months, the Summit Land Conservancy will begin a capital campaign to raise approximately $200,000 for the purchase. Fox did not reveal the total price tag.
“I don’t want to say precisely how much because we are not through our due diligence and we have most of it, but it is significantly higher than that,” Fox said. “People who donate money to us don’t really recognize how that allows us to do these projects. We could not be on the ground ready to buy land and easements if we didn’t have support from our members, who should feel proud of themselves for making an investment in the preservation of human habitat.”
Oakley City Council member Tom Smart said he was approached by Howard Sorensen, a member of the South Summit Trails Foundation board, and former Oakley Mayor Doug Evans to explore the possibility of creating a trail system and ensuring open space in the Kamas Valley. Smart said the 23-acre area along the river is a “really critical piece of property.”
“It just seemed that if you were ever going to be doing anything that land would be a critical piece in trying to create a master plan of the whole area,” Smart said. “Oakley was fortunate enough that they (Summit Land Conservancy) saw the value of that and put it under contract.
Smart said the property is an “incredible stand-alone asset” to the community because of the access it provides to the public.
“This is something that will be there forever. It’s a fairly pricey thing and just as big of an asset,” Smart said. “We are grateful that they are willing to invest in the land because it’s more than just Oakley. We are just very excited about it and residents are very appreciative. It really is the perfect land to preserve.”
Tom Noaker, president of the South Summit Trails Foundation, said the organization will be entering into a memorandum of understanding with the conservancy and several other organizations to create the trail system.
“By signing on, it helps them source some funding for the purpose of creating that right-of-way through the town of Oakley,” Noaker said. “All of the credit goes to Summit Land, but we are ready to pound when it is our time.”
The acquisition preserves approximately half a mile of riverfront, Evans said. He highlighted the trend among landowners on the East Side of the county to build their homes along the river and emphasized the importance of redirecting that development.
“We see this as a step in the right direction and we hope what happens here will spread to other places along the Weber River,” Evans said. “This is one of the only places where you can have a trail and public access along a major river like this in this county. I don’t even know how you place a value on this type of thing.”
The Summit Land Conservancy currently holds 27 permanent conservation easements comprised of more than 3,000 acres of open space in and around Park City, according to a release. The easements protect large swaths of Round Valley, Quarry Mountain, Empire Canyon, McPolin Farmlands and land along the Weber River.
Two people indicated in interviews they are considering mounting campaigns for the Park City Council, a signal the City Hall election could attract an intriguing slate of candidates in a year when the majority of the five seats are on the ballot.