PARK CITY — Utah Open Lands and partners are crafting a management plan for the high-country gem known as Bonanza Flat, an area that's home to lakes, trails and wildlife on the Wasatch Back.
The draft conservation plan includes an assessment of the natural resources on the 1,350-acre parcel and possible management options to protect the land that is in increasingly high demand.
"We have a tremendous opportunity with Bonanza Flat," said Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands. "Right now, there is a tremendous amount of interest in people being up there. There are people who are not finding places to park, who are parking along the side of the road."
She added the area at Guardsman Pass lacks bathroom facilities.
"The minute we put in a port-a-potty it had to be pumped on a daily basis."
She said these issues and others are being addressed in the management plan that will dictate land use going forward.
Just over a year ago, Park City acquired the land in an unprecedented, collaborative effort to save it from potential development. Utah Open Lands will hold the conservation easement.
In November of 2016, Park City voters approved a $25 million bond and the remaining $13 million was cobbled together in a private-public fundraising effort that included donations from Salt Lake City, the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy, as well as Wasatch County.
"This is an important watershed," Fisher said. "For the town of Midway, for Wasatch County and into the Provo River, which provides clean drinking water for people here on the Wasatch Front."
The area is home to a pair of lakes, one of which provides culinary water to a nearby Girl Scout camp.
Fisher said the uptick in recreational use is putting a strain on some of the resources. Some restrictions might go into play for dogs in certain primitive areas, and the plan calls for reconfiguring certain trails to make them more suitable.
Heinrich Deters, the open space, trails and real estate manager for Park City, said that over the last year, much of the work has concentrated on the technical aspects of the acquisition, including surveys, rights of way and working with agencies like the Utah Department of Transportation and Wasatch County.
"It has been more mechanical than anything else," he said.
Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis said the county is working closely with Park City and Utah Open Lands over concerns of the conservation easement allowing adequate access for search and rescue and emergency responders.
Since Bonanza Flat became more widely known in the public campaign to save the land, Davis said emergency calls to the area have signficantly increased.
Over the last year, Utah Open Lands put together stakeholder groups made up of multiple government entities like Summit County and nonprofit groups that include Save Our Canyons, Mountain Trails Foundation and Utah Trails to map out a recreation and conservation plan for the area.
It is an eclectic group working for a common goal of preserving the land for generations to come, Fisher said.
"What is incumbent on us who end up being protectors of the land, who buy open space, we have to find ways we can come together to help each other," she said. "The user isn't defining what county they are in or what boundary they are in. When they are on a trail and it crosses into another county or crosses a city line, they are not thinking about it."
She is hopeful that the Bonanza Flat effort becomes a blueprint for how to leverage money and get past jurisdictional issues.
"A village came together," she said.