PARK CITY — In the late '80s, Park City and the surrounding valley had just 4 miles of trails. It also had roads across which farmers were allowed to herd their cattle and only about 500 residents living outside city limits.

Today, the area boasts 400 miles of trails, 35,000 residents and — as of Tuesday — about 12,000 acres of dedicated open space.

The area's most recent addition to its open space holdings was a joint purchase by Summit County and Park City. Each entity paid about $2 million to buy a hillside property at the city's entrance on state Route 224.

The county and city purchased the land — an area meant to be undeveloped and saved for recreation — with bond money and other open-space dedicated funds. It was their first joint acquisition.

"Nothing gives me more satisfaction than, as I see it, being on the side of angels preserving open space," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer, who attended a snowy celebration and photo op at the foot of the newly acquired open space Tuesday night.

Park City Mayor Dana Williams also attended the frigid gathering along with about 25 other area residents dedicated to preserving open space.

"We are starting to be judged not by the quality of what we build but by the quality and quantity of what we don't build," Williams said, addressing the crowd.

As of the recent purchase, about 7,000 acres of Park City's circumference is dedicated open space. The city started preserving the space in the early '90s and has since passed three $10 million voter-approved bonds aimed at continuing the preservation.

The Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District, part of Summit County, has also passed a $10 million bond for the purchase of open space. That money has not yet been used.

County and city leaders and voters feel strongly about open space for three main reasons, said Park City Sustainability Department employee Myles Rademan, who has been involved in open-space acquisition for more than two decades.

Maintaining the character of Park City and Summit County as a rural community is good for business, Rademan said. If the area feels out-of-the-way, visitors will appreciate it more.

Also, proportionate green space is good for the environment, Rademan said. Finally, open space is good for the health and recreation of community members. Trails are laced through all of the area's dedicated open land, Rademan said, and both residents and vacationers use them regularly.

Citizen groups in both jurisdictions have been charged with acquiring open-space land using bond money. In Park City, the group is known as Citizens' Open Space Advisory Committee. In Summit County, the group is the Basin Open Space Advisory Committee.

The groups met together after Tuesday's outdoor celebration to discuss the groups' histories, educate new members and discuss future plans. Both groups are hopeful that the downturn of the national real estate market could positively affect their ability to buy property for open space.

"If you want to develop (your land), don't talk to us but if you want to save it we're the people you talk to," Rademan said.

E-mail: [email protected]