BRIGHTON — The community that always was, but formally couldn't call itself that, is Utah's newest town after a successful vote Tuesday to incorporate.
"We've been a community since 1871, with our own stories, culture and traditions. We are honored and excited to honor that history and legacy," said Brighton town sponsor Carolyn Keigley.
"It only took us 147 years. We seem to be a fairly laid-back community."
Residents voted to incorporate by 105 to 63 votes.
Barbara Cameron, president of the Big Cottonwood Canyon Association, said supporters believe incorporation will give canyon residents more voice in matters related to traffic, toilets, tourists and forest health.
"We do want to be helpful to the Forest Service with the infrastructure and protection of the forests."
The influx of canyon visitors is wearing down natural resources and putting strain on the U.S. Forest Service, Salt Lake County and other entities trying to manage a watershed that provides 60 percent of the drinking water to 350,000 residents.
Cameron said over the years canyon residents have watched decisions being made — or lack of decisiveness — that they feel compromise watershed and forest health.
"We see it going on every day and think we could be a lot of help," she said.
Land concerns drove other election decisions on Tuesday, including when Park City voters overwhelmingly threw their support behind a $48 million bond to preserve the iconic Treasure Hill and throw money toward saving the legacy Snow Ranch Pastures.
Both pieces of land were under threat of development.
"People overwhelmingly indicated that both of these properties should be protected, but we are not done," said Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands.
Another $1.8 million remains to be raised for the total purchase price of the Snow Ranches property.
"We are overjoyed, but we still have a long road of ahead of us to make sure this gets protected."
Treasure Hill overlooks historic Park City Main Street and has been eyed by developers since the 1880s.
Owners were planning high-rise hotels, condos and all manner of retail development that residents said would forever alter the character of the mountain town.
John Stafsholt was sleepy Wednesday morning after a long night of celebrating the bond's passage. He and supporters will spend the next days plucking 650 signs urging salvation of Treasure Hill.
"It's a beautiful thing," he said. "This problem has existed since the town incorporated in the 1880s. … We are taking care of something that has been over our head for a long time."
In Wasatch County, voters approved a $10 million open space bond in which authorities will work with willing land owners to preserve agricultural, wildlife or other land through conservation easements. Midway voters, too, passed a $5 million open space bond.2 comments on this story
"Once these properties get sold for developement, they will never be farm fields again," Fisher said.
Brighton residents, who watch the canyon swell with visitors looking for a mountain escape, will vote for a mayor and four Town Council members in June to govern the state's second-highest town, which sits at an elevation of 8,755 feet.
"I think up here we are voting as local advocates, whose hearts and homes are in the canyon," Cameron said. "We always thought we were a town, but it turns out we really weren't."