Braids of the Weber River babble over 100 acres of farmland on the East Side of Summit County, punctuating land that has sustained generations of farmers and that now finds itself on the verge of its next stage of existence.
The Marchant family’s land in Peoa has the potential to bring about the next stage of existence for the Summit Land Conservancy, as well, as the nonprofit would own and manage the land moving forward, a first for the organization for a purchase of this size.
“If we wanted to save it, we had to buy it,” said Cheryl Fox, the conservancy’s executive director.
It means the nonprofit will be responsible for things like irrigation ditches, finding a farmer to graze the land and repairing fences, Fox said.
“It’s a new step,” Fox said. “I’m excited for it.”
But first, the conservancy has to raise another $50,000 by the end of October to reach its $450,000 goal to purchase the land outright.
Fox said much of the project’s overall funding comes from a $9.4 million federal grant the conservancy received in April. The project is also the beneficiary of $250,000 from the Eastern Summit County Agricultural Preservation/Open Space Committee, which is funded primarily through fees on land purchased in the luxury Promontory development.
The 106-acre swath of farmland is on Wooden Shoe Lane and has been in the Marchant family for six generations, according to a press release. It’s still grazed by cows and is home to a heron rookery, marmots, coyotes and, possibly, a bobcat, Fox said, reporting a recent sighting.
There is one landowner between the parcel eyed by the conservancy, which it’s calling Marchant Meadows, and the Steven’s Grove protected open space and trail system in Oakley. Marchant Meadows will form a key part of a long-term plan for a 5-mile trail along the Weber River, Fox said.
Organizers have long planned for this land to be one end of the proposed trail.
While it won’t be a trailhead mecca filled with parked cars, Fox said, the plan is to create a publicly accessed nature preserve, which she said will include trails.
She said she’s appreciative that the landowners have said they will stick around to show the nonprofit how to best manage the land, including maintaining its irrigation system and how and where to graze animals to maintain healthy soil.
“This land has been loved,” Fox said.
In owning the land, the conservancy will have the opportunity to pursue projects like taking school-aged kids out to learn about science in the field, performing carbon sequestration experiments or allowing a novice farmer a small plot of land to experiment with growing hops.
The key is to maintain the land in harmony with the area’s natural systems, Fox said, embracing the sort of messy, seemingly disorganized changes that ultimately lead to healthy land.
“Rivers, like toddlers and teenagers, are meant to test their boundaries,” she said.