Wheadon Farm Park Ribbon Cutting Press Release (June 29, 2016)
PRESERVATION 20 YEARS AGO ENSURES A PARK FOR TODAY
Deane and Gene Wheadon Farm Land Preserve opens Wednesday as Wheadon Farm Park
It was 1996 when Utah Open Lands received a phone call from a farmer in Draper wanting to preserve his land forever as a legacy of his work and honor of his late wife. That call resulted in the preservation of 62 acre of prime farmland and rangeland in the heart of a growing part of the south Salt Lake Valley.
A year of working with Gene to preserve his land, what Utah Open Lands Executive Director remembers most was Gene’s response to reporters as to why he protected his farm. ‘You can’t eat money.’ Fisher along with current Utah Open Lands Board Chair, Jeff Appel worked with Gene to place his farm under a protective conservation easement forever precluding it from development. A conservation easement is a legal document that protects forever the undeveloped open space value of the land allowing for a landowner, who loves their land, to exercise their private property right to preserve their land.
In the mid 90s several Utah counties were among the fastest growing communities in the United States. Utah was in danger of losing the very thing that contributed to its high quality of life – its scenic beauty and recreational opportunity. “In many ways, the threat to Utah’s quality of life today, is similar to what we were experiencing in the mid 90s. Development was out pacing the necessary balance of protecting the open space that makes Utah such a great, attractive place to live.” said Fisher. Over the past two decades, since the Wheadon Farm was protected, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of farmers markets throughout the nation, according to the USDA. Another value to the preservation of the Wheadon farm under the conservation easement is the provision for continued farming on a portion of the land.
The preservation of Wheadon Farm was over a year in the making. Gene met with Utah Open Lands on a regular basis to craft his vision, which included continued farming and a possible trail in the upper field on the perimeter, which the pubic could enjoy. After Gene’s death, Utah Open Land continued to safeguard the property. For 11 years, Utah Open Lands defended the conservation easement against those interested in developing it. “There was a constant stream of people who wanted to trade the land for something far outside of the Salt Lake Valley” Fisher said. “But we had made a promise to Gene and a promise to the land.”
Utah Open Lands was thrilled when the Salt Lake County Parks and Open Space bond afforded Salt Lake County the ability to purchase the remaining fee and bring Gene’s land under public ownership still under the protection of the conservation easement. Utah Open Lands sees conservation easements and partnerships as the best way to leverage limited public funds for the greatest public benefit. As the dedication of the park occurs Utah Open Lands will remember Gene and how none of this would have been possible without that initial conversation between Gene and Utah Open Lands back in 1996.
Salt Lake County Press Conference and Dedication of Wheadon Farm Park, Wednesday 10:30 am 13965 South Bangerter Parkway, Draper