Utah Counties, Nonprofits, Supporters Unite In Protection of Bonanza Flat
Bonanza Flat borders Salt Lake and Summit Counties but is nestled in the upper elevations of the Wasatch Mountains, in Wasatch County.
The privately owned property consists of nearly 14 acres. Those who have experienced the area's alpine meadows and lakes call it a recreational playground while the black bear, elk, moose and endangered owl, call it home.
“You can test you metal climbing 10,420 but you can also just walk through a meadow of wildflowers. Or you can take a scenic drive and maybe catch the glimpse of a moose," said Wendy Fisher, Utah Open Lands Executive Director.
Because of the multiple recreation and land preservation benefits of Bonanza Flat, Park City officials have kept a close eye out for opportunities that could ensure the land will be protected from development. But not knowing how the community would feel about purchasing the open space at a cost of $38 million, Park City Mayor Jack Thomas said the city chose to put the idea on the ballot this past November.
“Over 70 percent of the people that voted - voted in favor of this proposition," Thomas said. "So that raised $25 million which wasn’t enough, and I don’t think we felt it would be enough. But, we felt it was enough for the residents of Park City and it was a giant commitment on their part.”
Once Park City signed the agreement in January and made the first option payment of $1.5 million, which is not refundable, Thomas said they had 60 days to come up with the remaining balance of $13 million.
The contract had a second option payment for an additional $1.5 million that would extend the closing date to June 15, but that money had to be found by March 15. Thomas said, before the city committed to anything further, he and the council wanted to wait to see how successful the fund raising efforts were.
Locals, residents from surrounding communities, and other leaders from other municipalities raised $9.5 million before the deadline and Park City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to make the second option payment.
Fisher has 26 years of experience working on land conservation projects in Utah and said the combined efforts of so many is something new.
“I have never seen 11 nonprofits bond together for the same purpose as three different county jurisdictions," Fisher said. "Different municipalities and over 15-hundred individuals throughout the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Back, and that’s heroic.”
Bridgette Meinhold is an artist who lives in Wasatch. She is one of several individuals who made donations to the effort. Her painting of Bonanza Flat raised $23 thousand dollars. She told members of the Park City Council in the beginning of the year that Bonanza Flat is a place of inspiration, exploration and preservation that attracts hikers, skiers and explorers from all over
Fisher said she’s confident the groups will raise the remaining $3.5 million.
“We have had contributions from $1 dollar to $50 thousand dollars," she said. "That is part of what makes this preservation campaign so heartwarming. This is an equal opportunity landscape, and people care.”
Salt Lake City Public Utilities and Metro Water District is working to determine exactly how much they can contribute.
Summit County has pledged $5.75 million and Fisher says Salt Lake County is meeting on Tuesday to consider a contribution to help protect the land.