A year after planting the seeds of becoming Grantsville’s heritage center, the Friends of the Clark Historic Farm showed its first season’s harvest and dug in the plow for the next series of events.
At a presentation to the Grantsville City Council Wednesday, Laurie Hurst with Friends of the Clark Historic Farm, told the city the group is amazed at the success over the past year, and is excited for the future.
“You gave us six months to see if we could make a success of this,” Hurst said. “I think we’ve not only met, but exceeded your expectations, and ours as well, and that’s a good thing.”
Over the past year, eight community events have been held at the farm, including a harvest festival and live nativity, drawing more than 6,000 people between them.
From those events, the farm has collected $17,000 in gross revenue, allowing more events to be funded, said James Christensen, another member of the group.
“This is just the first year,” he said. “Once we start to develop momentum, we’ll have a lot more, I think, and we’ll continue to grow.”
The group has had no corporate sponsors, Christensen said, but has been awarded $4,600 so far in grants, and has applied for another. Preparation for events is done by almost 100 volunteers of different types, he said. The farm events also produce revenue as the group rents out the space from the city.
With all of the positive figures, however, Christensen said the more valuable contributions to the city and residents are incalculable.
“Most importantly, the citizens of Grantsville have a place they can be proud of, a place where they can come and learn about their heritage,” he said. “The Grantsville residents have soaked up these events like a sponge.”
Hurst said the group is excited for another year of activities at the farm, and appreciates the support the city has given so far. However, she said, having a sense of more permanence would be nice, especially in regards to the cemetery.
In November 2010, Grantsville City, in tight financial straits and with a need for a cemetery expansion, designated 40 acres of fields behind the J. Reuben Clark Farm buildings, which are across the street from the existing cemetery, as the site for new graves.
Over the next three years, the city spent about $65,000, on top of $335,000 the city paid for the farm, to install a sprinkling system and other improvements.
Several of the Clark Farm activities have since taken place on or around the field. Hurst has said in past meetings that it would be difficult to foster a heritage center among the buildings when a funeral could be held on the grounds at any time.
In October, the city approved the purchase of 3.1 acres of land adjacent to the existing cemetery. The $82,000 deal was finalized earlier this year. No use of the land has been designated, though, and the parcel behind the buildings on the Clark Farm remains designated as the city’s next cemetery. Burials have not taken place there yet.
While preselling plots is a revenue stream for the city, Hurst said, there is only a finite amount that can be made from those plots, whereas keeping the farm available for community events would allow for a steady stream of revenue in terms of rentals of the property and taxes from goods sold there.
Hurst urged the city council to change the cemetery designation to the new property, and to preserve the property at the Clark Farm. She also asked the council to allow the Friends of the Clark Historic Farm to work with the city to make a plan for a historic district, from the farm to the Old Grantsville Chapel approximately one block east.
“This is a really important area for our town,” said Hurst. “This is where it all started.”
Hurst also promised 50 volunteers to come on two Saturdays of the city’s choosing over the summer to prepare the new parcel of property for use as a cemetery if getting the property in usable shape was an issue.
Mayor Brent Marshall said the council could not make any decisions regarding the property until the city’s 2014-2015 budget is finalized next month.
The budget deadline abuts the July 1 acceptance deadline on a $10,000 grant given to the Friends of the Clark Historic Farm to be used to install electricity and lights at the farm. Hurst said the group is excited about the grant and the prospect of getting electricity at the farm as opposed to using generators for nighttime events, but doesn’t feel comfortable accepting it if the farm cannot continue to be used for those types of events.
“We believe if we’re able to make some permanence [at the farm], we can go ahead with this electric project,” Hurst said. “We’re not going to stop here. This is a great thing.”