A developer is attempting to purchase 1,350 acres on Guardsman Pass out from under a public easement agreement between Park City and the property’s current holding company. Some GOP Salt Lake councilmen are siding with the developer. Big surprise!

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Guardsman Pass is a giant swath of (mostly) public space that Utah residents and visitors enjoy in the spring and summer months for hiking, biking, running and camping. In the winter months the pass is the famous “connector” of the ski resorts and backcountry of the Wasatch Front and Back (think Park City Mountain Resort, Snowbird, Alta, Solitude etc.)

A 1,350-acre privately held parcel near the top of the pass known as Bonanza Flat is mostly level land with untouched alpine meadows, mountain streams, lakes and dense forest that traverses the pass on the mountain range’s back side.

Within the bounds of these parcels lies Lackawaxen Lake and Bloods Lake as well as the face of a backcountry explorer’s favorite known as 10420 Peak. The land is home to countless threatened species of plant life including historic stands of Alpine and Spruce along with families of moose, elk, black bear and numerous indigenous birds.

Utah legislators and local land conservancies, unable to get their shit together for protection issues such as these—um, ever—should have acquired the parcel and created a permanent public space and conservation easement on this property a half-century ago. Instead, financial turmoil from past parcel owners has served as a salve.

….And what is known as the gateway to the Wasatch Crest Trail has remained open for public use.

Till now.

A private developer whose name is not yet a matter of public record is contract to buy the parcel for $38 million from a Wells Fargo subsidiary called Midtown Acquisitions Inc., the current deed holders to the parcel.

The previous owners include United Park City Mines and Talisker, the embattled Canadian developer which owned Canyons resort prior to Vail’s acquisition. Talisker had plans to build an all-season 260-unit resort but was foreclosed upon in 2012. Wells Fargo Bank/Midtown Acquisitions Inc. started negotiations with Park City officials last year and in turn the residents of Park City voted overwhelmingly in November to purchase the land and turn it into a public easement for good.

Park City Municipal has pledged its approved $25 million bond toward the purchase and the balance of the $38 million asking price is being raised with the combined efforts of 11 nonprofits spearheaded by Utah Open lands: Friends of Alta, Pure Midway, Save Our Canyons, Sierra Club, Summit Land Conservancy, Trails Utah, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, Utah Open Lands, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Wasatch Mountain Club, and Mountain Trails Foundation.

The group has thus far raised $9.5 million of the $13 million balance with the final deadline to full funds was extended to June 15. However, at the time of the Park City bond’s passage, the deed holder was already in negotiations with the developer.

So now it’s a race against the clock.

Enter a handful of ridiculous members of the Salt Lake County Council who met earlier this week about committing an additional $1.5 million toward the preservation of the property. Mayor Ben McAdams proposed using the county tourism and recreation arn to come up with the money and that board gave the funding proposal its unanimous approval.

The problem comes from a pair of county representatives, Richard Snelgrove (R – At Large) at 385-468-7452 and Max Burdick (R – Cottonwood Heights, East Sandy, Draper, BCC, LCC) at 385-468-7459.

The pair are either in opposition (Snelgrove) or undecided/afraid to cast a vote (Burdick.)

The next council meeting is on Tuesday, June 13, two days before the Bonanza Flats payment is due. Should the council fall short on its commitment, barring any sort of private windfall, the lands would then likely slip into the hands of a developer.

So to that mystery donor out there (Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Buffett, Mr. Gates are you listening?) you can forever save this pristine piece of forest by simply clicking here and entering your credit card.

…You have till June 15. Tick tock.

Andrew J. Pridgen helps run sister site Death of the Press Box and is the author of the novella “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.