Editorial: The management of Bonanza Flat is a complex task for Park City
April 9, 2018
City Hall's push last year to raise millions of dollars to finalize the purchase of Bonanza Flat was a herculean effort worthy of one of the Wasatch Back's unmistakable treasures.
A little less than a year later, though, the hard part is far from over.
Ownership of the 1,350-acre swath of land in hand, the city is now deep into the discussions about how to manage it. It's a difficult task and one that requires a deft touch to balance the many competing interests among people who recreate or live near the land.
City Hall held an open house centered on Bonanza Flat on Monday and has discussed the topic in other meetings in recent weeks. The range of information from the city and feedback from interested parties illustrate just how complicated crafting a conservation easement and management plan for the land will be.
It's not a shock to city officials, who knew owning and managing Bonanza Flat would be complex when they asked voters in 2016 to support a $25 million bond to fund most of the acquisition and engaged in last year's all-out campaign to raise the remaining $13 million to meet the purchase price.
They were correct to view the opportunity to conserve the long-desired land as being worth the challenges. But given the amount of money taxpayers and others plunked down for the deal, and its importance in the Wasatch Back, it's critical that they get the management of it right.
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One polarizing issue that embodies the intricacies of the discussions is whether snowmobiling should be permitted. Snowmobilers who have ridden the land for decades argue Bonanza Flat offers some of the best snowmobiling around and that the activity doesn't harm the land or wildlife. A City Hall survey of residents last year, however, revealed that many view the use of motorized vehicles there as inappropriate. The matter is complicated by the fact several residences near the land are accessible in the winter only via snowmobile.
And that's hardly the only topic that will drum up disagreements. Park City has also indicated it may prohibit hunting on the land. It would be the right call since one point of conserving open space is to protect the animals that inhabit it. But it's not a straightforward issue, as hunting, which has previously been allowed on Bonanza Flat, is sometimes important in keeping the wildlife population at healthy levels.
Other aspects the city will have to consider include questions like whether to make recreation improvements like mountain biking trails and cross-country skiing tracks. And if so, where and how many — and what about parking?
Whatever course the city ultimately takes, there will be many who disagree with various elements of the plan. That's inevitable with something as complex as Bonanza Flat. As long as city officials make every effort to reach the best-possible solutions, though, the fact Parkites will get to enjoy the land for generations to come is ultimately what's most important.