Back in 1994, Utah Open Lands, a local non-profit land trust conservation association, was in the process of acquiring and protecting an area of the Wasatch Back called Snake Creek when they noticed an adjacent drainage called Bonanza Flat and recognized it as something special. Ever since then, UOL has kept feelers out for when the privately held parcel might come up for sale. Then, in 2016, they got a call from Park City’s City Council. Park City was in negotiations to purchase Bonanza Flat but they were unable to foot the entire $38 million bill. “There was no question,” says UOL Director Wendy Fisher, “if there was ever a time to bring together a coalition it was this.”
Six months in, the campaign to save Bonanza Flat now includes, in addition to Utah Open Lands and Park City (whose voters recently passed a $25 million ballot measure for the purchase of the land), Save Our Canyons, Sierra Club, Friends of Alta, Mountain Trails, Trails Utah, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, Wasatch Mountain Club, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Summit Land Conservancy and many, many individual donors, just normal people like you and me (disclosure: this story’s author contributed to the Bonanza Flat fund). At a time when national events seems so far from our control, coming back to something as local as saving Bonanza Flat can reinstate a sense of individual agency. “So many people have told me they are concerned about their inability to effect change or positive progress,” says Fisher. “And yet we have seen so many people committed to this effort because it was one thing they could positively effect. For me, this has been a broader sign that, yes, we see that as individuals we can make a difference.” Contributions from Park City, Summit County and Salt Lake City have brought the campaign within sight of the goal, but a setback in March, when the Republican-majority Salt Lake County Council denied a $3 million contribution that would have finalized the purchase, will keep this grassroots fight going into summer.
Start a conversation about Bonanza Flat with friends and neighbors who may not of heard about it. Contribute what you can, go to UtahOpenLands.org/save-bonanza-flats. Contact the Salt Lake County Council, especially the five members that voted against (Richard Snelgrove, Michael Jensen, Aimee Winder Newton, Steve DeBry, Max Burdick) and encourage them to change their minds about Bonanza Flat.
6/21/17 Post-press update: Bonanza Flat is saved! June 13, Salt Lake County pledged $1.5 million to close the funding gap.