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Group has three months to raise over $1.4 million to save open space at base of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Posted at 5:59 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 20:07:18-05

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — The race is on to save a piece of land near the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Cottonwood Heights.

The 26-acre piece of open space, with access to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, is used as a running, biking and walking trail.

“It’s beautiful, its quiet. It’s a little part of nature that we don’t have 50 feet away,” Wendy Elkington said on her mid-morning run.

The untouched area has been zoned for residential development. This summer, 11 lots could be cleared if the Utah Open Lands grassroots effort to save the land comes up short.

“I feel the importance of protecting this property,” said Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands.

The group has until June 1 to come up with the money to purchase the land. The area appraised for more than $3.8 million, but the owners Rola V Ltd and LC Canyon Partners LLC have agreed to cut the purchase price by more than $800,000 if it can be preserved.

“At the final zoning hearing when Carl Fisher from Save our Canyons spoke against us, I promised him I would try to find a way to both reward property owners and keep the property undisturbed. Wendy Fisher is helping my promise come true,” said Grant Kesler, manager of LC Canyon Partners.

The City of Cottonwood Heights offered up $1 million for the conservation effort.

“As a city that’s basically built out, it’s critical that we do our part to preserve what little is left. Especially in our foothills,” Mayor Mike Peterson said, “They’re not making any more open space... When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Utah Open Lands has secured a $500,000 grant from the LeRay McAllister Critical Lands fund. The remaining almost $1.5 million dollars needs to be raised before the June deadline.

Every dollar is going to make a difference, Fisher said.

People who love the trail, like Elkington, are eager to help.

“You're darn right I will. I certainly will and I know a lot of my neighbors will too,” she said.

Finding the balance between growth and preservation is key as more people continue to call Utah home, Fisher said.

“Part of the economic values that we have here in the state are dependent on preserving places like this,” she said.

If successful, this will be beneficial for generations to come, Peterson said.

“It’s also important that this piece will serve as a trail head connection for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. We’re hopeful others step forward and support Utah Open Lands and protect this incredible piece of open space. It’s a small price to pay to protect this unique parcel for future generations,” Peterson said.

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