Change Agents

Change Agents: Grassroots – People with Initiative

By Katherine Pioli
Thanks to Martin van Hemert for this lovey photo of Hi Ute Ranch, one of our easements in Summit County.

Today, Bonanza Flat is 1,350 acres of undeveloped mountain on the dividing line between the Wasatch Front (Salt Lake’s side of the range) and the Wasatch Back (Heber City’s side). From these lands, hikers and trail runners access the Wasatch Crest Trail. Families fish the half dozen small alpine lakes. In the winter, snowmobilers cross the lower flats on the closed Guardsman’s Pass road and backcountry skiers descend into the open meadow bowl beneath 10420 Peak.

These 1,350 acres also hold one of our state’s most precious natural resources: water. Part of the Weber River Basin, this area receives the highest amount of average annual precipitation in the state, 27 inches, most of which falls in the form of snow. According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, this basin produces approximately 3.5 million acre-feet of water, which is used by agriculture and development down stream. Development within this watershed could certainly affect what flows downstream from the Flat.

Last year a high-end developer, with plans for a gated community and private golf course, inquired about purchasing Bonanza Flat from Redus, LLC (part of Wells Fargo Bank). They almost struck a deal—one that could still be finalized, taking the Flat out of public reach forever, unless, by June 15, individuals, organizations and government entities that make up our community can bring together $38 million to purchase and preserve Bonanza Flat in perpetuity.

The campaign to save Bonanza Flat is a grassroots initiative with a lot of strong momentum, but as with anything that’s grassroots its success cannot come from a few powerful players at the top but from the momentum of many passionate people working together from below.

GRASSROOTS is the third installment of CATALYST’s Change Agents series. Here we look at Salt Lake Excess, a student-led food justice program; art as activism with Resist zine creator Ella Mendoza; citizen-led changes to local ordinances; and CATALYST’s own campaign to bring attention to Great Salt Lake. These are hyper-local stories of people and projects that are changing lives and making our community stronger. Let them be an inspiration. How will you make this a better place?

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This article was originally published on June 1, 2017.