The Flying Dog Loop near Park City is one of the most classic and popular mountain bike trails near Park City. It may soon become even more fetching.
During a special meeting Thursday, the Summit County Council unanimously approved a four-year option to buy the 910 Cattle Ranch for $55 million. The 8,576-acre property north of Jeremy Ranch, according to a news release, “is one of the last contiguous mountain ranches privately held by a single landowner in western Summit County and the Snyderville Basin area.”
Summit County can now pursue a three-year, $15 million option to purchase the ranch with the option of an additional year for $5 million. That money would be applied toward the purchase price of the property.
The parcel’s southern border touches both the 24-7 Trail and the Flying Dog Loop and could provide for spur or connector trails to those routes. To the north, the land brushes up against East Canyon State Park and is a hop away from the Mormon Pioneer Trail.
“The property size and its connectivity to other protected lands is truly incredible,” said Jess Kirby, the director of the Summit County Lands and Natural Resources Department, in a statement. “This is a rare opportunity — a once-in-a-lifetime property. It is a legacy parcel for our community and a dream come true.”
Kirby said in an email to The Tribune that the county intends to use the land for open space and public recreation. That includes creating “public non-motorized trail systems and trailheads for hiking, cross country running, mountain biking and equestrian activities, fishing, Nordic skiing, skate skiing, picnicking [and] camping.” Portions of the land may also be set aside as protected wildlife habitat or for grazing cattle, selective timber harvesting and education and research.
Porcupine Creek runs through the property, which is home to many large animals and birds. Hunting will not be allowed on the land, a requirement the owner, David Bernolfo, placed on the sale.
Two years ago, Summit County voters approved the OpenSpaceGo bond, a 26-year bond that will generate $50 million for the county to put toward the purchase of open space. County Manager Shayne Scott said the down payment, or $15 million, will come from that bond. The rest, Scott told KPCW, could be financed through fundraising, grants and other means.
“At the end of the day, we’re not going to walk away from $15 million,” Chris Robinson, the council’s vice chair, said during the meeting. “I would hope you’d think less of us [if we did].”
Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, said the purchase of the 910 Cattle Ranch would be a good use of the county’s money. Its value lies in part, she said, in its proximity to the rapidly growing Jeremy Ranch community but also in the role it plays as part of the watershed that feeds the Wasatch Front and as a riparian corridor.
“This is a real legacy property not only for Summit County but for the state of Utah,” Fisher said in a statement. “For years Utah Open Lands has looked for possible ways to see this land preserved, and this news is an amazing win for the community.”
Upon approval of the purchase, Summit County would take immediate control of the land and would pay a lease of $5,000 per month until the option ends. The ranch will be considered private property until posted otherwise, however, to allow the county to develop a comprehensive use plan. Visitors will be asked to stay on East Canyon Road.
Public comment about the purchase was largely positive, with some speakers calling the land “a work of art.” Concerns were voiced about over the ban on hunting and how little notice the public was given about the potential purchase. A few speakers also cautioned the council to not let the land become overrun.
Bernolfo owns the property, upon which he ran the 910 Cattle Company. Bernolfo had development entitlements for 116 units and planned to build luxury residences on the land while preserving “wildlife and environmental components,” according to a brief of court documents posted by the International Society of Primerus Law Firms. The documents were produced after he sued his lawyers in 2008 for not protecting his development rights after Summit County moved to amend its development code, which cut the density allowed on his property by 40%. Bernolfo, who according to court documents planned to donate proceeds from the sale of the land for development, was awarded $12.8 million in damages.
The ranch will be the second substantial swath of land this month to be set aside as open space near Park City. Two weeks ago, the builder of the Mayflower Resort committed 3,100 acres of that property between Bonanza Flat and Wasatch Mountains State Park to a conservation easement. The easement, which is being overseen by Utah Open Lands, allows public access to trails from May to October and retires development entitlements to nearly 700 structures.
“This is a once in forever opportunity to conserve a unique property of substantial size,” Wes Siddoway, chair of Summit County’s Open Space Advisory Committee, said in a press statement. “The benefits it provides will be for current and all future generations.”