Utah Girl Scouts complete historic land purchase, preserving neighboring open space

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2013 6:05 p.m. MST

Camp Cloud Rim, near Park City, on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. The Girl Scout Camp will acquire 236 acres of adjoining land.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PARK CITY — Tucked away in the pines in the mountains towering above Park City, nearly eight decades of Utah girls have giggled together, played in the water and backpacked near the Girl Scout lodge at Camp Cloud Rim.

As decades have passed, the Girl Scouts of Utah organization has fretted that the neighboring land would be compromised though development, that incompatible land use would threaten this center of learning, fellowship and fun.

The Girl Scouts recently completed a land acquisition of 236 adjacent acres south of Camp Cloud Rim and now those fears of encroachment are no more.

"The seller was really keen to see this area preserved," said Christopher Jones, an attorney who negotiated the property's sale and drafted the documents for its closing on behalf of the Girl Scouts. "They frequently referred to this as the crown jewel of the Wasatch."

Jones said the property was owned by Silver Islet Lake Partners, which historically had allowed Girl Scouts access to the property over the years for activities such as hiking and photography.

"The Girl Scouts foster the appreciation of nature, wilderness and conservation values, so it really made sense," Jones said.

An attractive component of the transaction is the placement of a land conservation easement by Silver Islet Lake Partners on all but about 18 acres of the new property acquired by the Girl Scouts, he added.

"This area allows the Girl Scouts to put up some rustic cabins, but limits the ability to expand the camp."

The conservation easement will preserve protections for native plants and wildlife, as well as riparian waterways. At the same time, the Girl Scouts of Utah can shelve any worries over unwelcome development.

"We're protecting hundreds of acres of open space for generations to come and creating a buffer zone from competing interests," noted Cathleen Sparrow, chief executive officer for the Girl Scouts of Utah.

Sparrow noted that the land deal represents the largest such transaction in the history of the Utah organization. A low-interest loan facilitated the purchase, but the group will launch a fundraising campaign to eliminate the debt as soon as possible.

The acquisition of the Wasatch wilderness happened just a few months shy of the 101st anniversary of the establishment of the Girl Scouts organization in the United States, which took root in Savannah, Ga.

In 1920, the group got its start in Utah in Ogden by a group of volunteers. The lodge at Camp Cloud Rim was initially built during the Great Depression as a Works Progress Administration project on 27 acres, but it burned to ground in 1992. It was rebuilt seven years later.

The Girl Scouts of Utah has a current membership of 8,000 girls, supported by 3,500 volunteers.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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