High in the mountains above Park City lies a beautiful and vast aspen grove. Aspens trees seem to stand together as individual trees, but in fact they are an interconnected system sharing a hidden network of roots underground. I have been fascinated by this special place and love to spend my days snowboarding and hiking in its midst.
When I found out about professor of ecology, Suzanna Simard’s, discovery of tree communication, my fascination was further stoked. In her research, Suzanne found that not only do interconnected species like aspens communicate within their own root network, but also every plant in an ecosystem is connected through a network of micelle fungus that results in communication among different types of species. Spruce talks to aspen and aspen talks to willow and so on. Furthermore, the trees also share resources in a complex collaboration. Spruce shares carbon with aspen when the aspen’s leaves are gone in the winter, and aspen trees give carbon to fir trees in the summer. The reason this discovery is so profound is because scientists used to think that trees competed for resources in a Darwinian survival of the fittest.
The expansive landscape above Park City that is home to this aspen grove is called Bonanza Flats. You may have stood at the top of Empire Canyon or Guardsman’s Pass and gawked at its beauty, as many do. What most people don’t realize is that this incredible natural world is private property and that the 1,350 acres is for sale after a bank repossession. Despite being private property, for many years Bonanza Flats has been a playground for biking, hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
This inter-collaborating natural paradise is now at the mercy of a high-stakes real estate transaction. A corporation famous for developments like the exclusive Yellowstone Club, intends to purchase Bonanza Flats and would most likely shut it off from the public completely. This could result in denied access to Park City’s famous Crest Trail, 10420, Bloods Lake and more. Park City citizens and numerous non-profits have the rare opportunity to raise the funds to preserve the Bonanza Flats as open space and ensure that it remains accessible for the public for recreation for years to come.