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Park City keen on a buffer area

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Park City has passed two $10 million conservation bonds — one in 1998 and one in 2002 — and has protected 4,000 acres over the past 15 years. For a resort area like Park City, the bond has afforded the community money to buy a buffer from "crazy" development.

So Park City has used the money to buy the sense of openness that exists as you drive into Park City — a sense of openness and remoteness crucial to a resort town, says Myles Rademan, the town's public affairs director.

The city also has bought a total of 1,375 acres — an area three times the size of New York's Central Park — in a hidden area called Round Valley southeast of town. The public area stretches to meet up with a nature preserve, and has mountain bike and cross-country ski trails, deer, elk, coyotes and other wildlife.

There is truly open space, with an incredible view of the Wasatch Mountains. "It is our plan that in five years, someone will say 'Thank God someone did that,' " said Rademan.

About 15 years ago, community leaders looked around and knew they needed to start aggressively protecting their community or it would be ruined. But Utah's strong stance on personal property rights landed them in many conversations in which owners said, "Well, if you want my land, then take out your checkbook," Rademan said. And so began the community's land conservation purchase history.

"It was and is imperative that we create a sense of separation," he said, from the high-paced development that is overrunning Wasatch County. "We tried to protect Kimball Junction, and we lost that battle," he said. So the city has tried to buffer the road on the way into town from the White Pine Inn on, using money from the bonds and other sources.

The council approved a 20-acre purchase at the Richards Ranch, at the entryway into town.

It negotiated development right agreements with several landowners to build back from the road.

Jon Huntsman donated a piece of property.

The community is always working on open space. It has $4 million from the bond issue, and a community group meets once a month to identify land that could be protected.

There is virtually no public land around Park City, Rademan said. It's all old mining property and private. That's why the money is so important to the community's land conservation efforts.

"If you don't get out in front of it, it will be gone," he said. "We want to keep it a nice place, and I wish it was free, but it isn't."