Utah Stories from the Beehive Archive

Swaner: The Nature Preserve at the Center of Change

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Swaner: The Nature Preserve at the Center of Change


This week learn about one family who made it their mission to preserve nature in the heart of a growing city – and they succeeded!

In Summit County, a precious 1200-acre area of wetland is permanently preserved through conservation easements as a natural refuge and ecological wonder – even as rapid change and development springs up around it. Known as the Swaner Preserve, this wetland on the skirts of Park City contains an educational EcoCenter for visitors and 10 miles of trails. The story of Swaner Preserve is one of resilience amidst immense rural change. 

Swaner's history begins not with the arrival of white settlers but long before, when Ute and Eastern Shoshone peoples used the wetland for waterfowl, plants, large game, and other supplies during the warmer months. Its use as an Indigenous resource was disrupted in the 1850s when a settler family claimed the land as their own and development of Park City started. The wetland then became the heart of a true American crossroads. The Pony Express traversed its northern edge for a time in 1860, and the Kimball Brothers built a new Stage Coach line nearby to connect the area to Salt Lake City. The discovery of silver in Park City led to an explosion in development. Miners flooded into the area, and the Utah Central Railway built a track connecting to Salt Lake that cut right through the wetlands. That original railway path can still be found as Swaner's Wetland Discovery Trail.

So how did this crossroads of economic activity become a nature preserve? The Swaner family operated a ranch on the wetlands for 35 years. Seeing the rapid development of Park City in the 1990s, the family donated 190 acres of ranch land to create the new Swaner Memorial Park Foundation in 1993. They did this in homage to their father Leland Swaner, who loved being in nature every day. As the preserve grew, the Swaner family was driven to protect the wetland ecosystem, an investment that has made Park City an even better place to live for its easy access to the outdoors. 

Swaner Preserve was donated to Utah State University in 2010 to support research and education. Its existence is a testament to family and community preservation of nature in the face of rapid change and urban development.


By Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter for Utah Humanities © 2024


Image: Swaner Nature Preserve. Over time the nature park has made Park City an even better place to live for its easy access to beautiful nature. Image courtesy Rhea Cone.

See “Our Mission & History,Swaner, accessed November 2023; “Swaner Family Oral History Project, 2015-2016,” Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives Division, accessed November 2023.


The Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities. This episode of the Beehive Archive was contributed by the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter. Find sources and the whole collection of past episodes at www.utahhumanities.org/stories.