One of the many spectacular views of the Bonanza Flats

Image: Mark Maziarz

For decades, campers, hikers, and snowmobilers ignored rusty no-trespassing signs at Guardsman Pass and recreated at will in the privately owned aspen groves, meadows, and lakes known as Bonanza Flat. But then in 2016, facing impending sale of the land to a developer, more than 3,500 private donors, multiple public entities, and Park City voters (by way of a bond) gave Park City Municipal $38 million to purchase this 1,350-acre high-altitude piece of the wild to preserve as open space. This summer is the first season the city enacts usage rules for Bonanza Flat, a process that promises a steep learning curve for users and enforcers alike.

The city’s Bonanza Flat management plan is based on a year-plus-long assessment performed by Utah Open Lands, the parcel’s designated land trust. Considering the area’s multiple conservation values—recreation and watershed, in particular—along with the interests of the many who made preserving the area possible, creating Bonanza’s usage recommendations was “the most complex task we’ve ever completed,” says Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands. But in the end, she says, it boiled down to this question: “How do we nurture this legacy for the next generation and beyond?”

To that end, Fisher and her staff divided Bonanza Flat into three usage zones: a primitive zone, including the popular Lackawaxen and Bloods lakes, that limits use to hiking and snowshoeing; a backcountry zone intended for a wider group of non-motorized users like cyclists, Nordic skiers, and equestrians; and a front-country zone for parking and trailheads. 

While the official dos and don’ts of recreating at Bonanza Flat were not yet available at press time, Heinrich Deters, Park City Municipal Trails & Open Space manager, confirmed that the Guardsman Pass trailhead in its current unmanaged form will no longer exist. “But before reducing, revamping, or changing it,” Deters says, “a new trail and trailhead will be provided to Bloods Lake.” And while Fisher doesn’t anticipate a complete prohibition of dogs there, there most certainly will be restrictions. “The amount of poop we found around Bloods Lake [the primary culinary water source for the nearby Girl Scout camp] is simply not sustainable,” she says.   

Consequences for breaking Bonanza’s new rules remain to be seen as well. If you, say, swim, or take a dog within the nearby Salt Lake County watershed, you could get slapped with a $650 fine. Will the city employ similar tactics to make sure everyone is minding their Ps and Qs in Bonanza Flat? “Enforcement is going to be critical to the success of Bonanza Flat,” says city councilman Steve Joyce. “But exactly who does what and how hasn’t been determined,” 

To be on the safe side, remember those poop bags if you do take your dog to Bonanza Flat this summer. And perhaps your checkbook, too.