The sudden appearance of yellows and oranges along the mountainsides brings to mind how valuable Park City open space is in our community. After all, it’s the undeveloped tracts of landscape that afford us the stunning vistas each season presents. Park City open space is something many Parkites and visitors take for granted. We don’t often consider the rigmarole undertaken over the past two decades through the present to ensure expanses of fields and mountains remain untouched despite development. Referred to as “passive recreational open space,” these areas help curb growth and sprawl, support wildlife habitats, and provide hundreds of miles of trails for hiking and biking, which means less hard-surface areas for these activities need to be developed.
Park City open space strategies
According to the Town of Park City, residents have voted to fund three open space bonds, resulting in the preservation of more than 8,000 acres. Open space is also achieved through development agreements, wherein a developer agrees to preserve open space in return for increased density within a project. The developer will then “cluster” the construction to keep buildings close together, which helps to create more dedicated open space.
At the county level, Summit County (which governs all unincorporated areas that are not incorporated cities, including Park City, Kamas, Coalville, etc.), the commitment is to “identify, protect and manage open spaces, trails and trailheads to preserve and maintain Summit County’s rural mountain character, unique natural areas and high quality of life for its residents and guests.”
The county’s efforts, through bond elections to fund open space, have resulted in expansive park areas (Trailside and Willow Creek parks), and preservation of iconic sites (Hi-Ute Ranch). Within the county’s stated commitment, it’s the “high quality of life” that brings most residents and visitors to the area. Hopefully, this will motivate each resident to support the efforts of the many organizations working to keep open space from being developed.
Another way that open space is preserved is through the work of organizations like the Summit Land Conservancy (SLC). SLC has been working for more than 14 years to preserve Park City open space, help create trails, and conserve land along the Weber River. Some of the spaces they’ve helped to protect include Round Valley, McPolin Farm, Quarry Mountain, and areas along Eastern Summit County. Another major player in preserving open space is Utah Open Lands, which helped the county preserve Hi Ute Canyon (the parcel where Hi-Ute Ranch sits). Utah Open Lands also helped preserve thousands of additional acres relating to projects in Summit County such as Swaner Memorial Park, Bear River Ranches, and Toll Canyon.
Park City, Snyderville Basin Recreation, Mountain Trails Foundation and the local resorts worked together to create the more than 350 miles of recreational trails. These outdoor amenities can be enjoyed year-round and ensure that access across public and private lands is uninterrupted. This helped Park City earn the very first International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Gold Medal award ever presented in summer of 2012.
For those of us in the business of selling the “Park City” product, preserving as much open space as possible is in our best interest. Open space for hiking, biking, or just plain beauty increases property values and the overall appeal of Park City and Summit County. A report released in June by the The New York Times ranked Summit County as fifth out of 3,135 counties across the U.S. in the areas of education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. With a breadth of housing options available to new and current residents, it is possible for folks across the income spectrum to truly enjoy the quality of life afforded by these factors, along with open space and overall quality of life, which make our community truly special.
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