Town of Brighton makes first step in potential purchase of 'icon' Silver Fork Lodge

The town of Brighton took a first step Tuesday in potentially purchasing the well-loved Silver Fork Lodge.

The town of Brighton took a first step Tuesday in potentially purchasing the well-loved Silver Fork Lodge. (Silver Fork Lodge)

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BRIGHTON — The town of Brighton took a first step Tuesday to potentially purchase the well-loved Silver Fork Lodge.

The Town Council unanimously approved entering into a right of first refusal and purchase agreement with the Silver Fork Lodge owner, Danial Knopp, who also happens to be Brighton's mayor.

Silver Fork Lodge was built in the 1850s, and the original wood beams from the Cardiff Fork Mine still reside in the building. At one point, the property was a one-pump gas station and snack shop before having a dining room and lodge added in the 1950s. The lodge is popular among canyon locals and visitors in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Knopp has owned the lodge since 1993 and decided last year to sell it as he plans to downsize and retire, members of the Town Council noted.

The mayor was not at Tuesday's meeting, and he recused himself from any town discussions about the purchase to avoid a conflict of interest, council members said. All town discussions about the property purchase have gone through the town attorney, and Brighton would only purchase it through an agent and wants to be as "upfront" as possible.

'Once it disappears, it never comes back'

The Town Council members said they want Brighton to buy the lodge to preserve canyon history and because it is a community gathering spot in a central location with parking.

Potential future and ongoing uses of the multi-use lodge listed by council members include:

  • A restaurant operated by an outside vendor.
  • Community meeting and event space for locals.
  • A post office package drop-off area.
  • Rental office space in what are now hotel rooms.
  • A "micro-school" for youth in the basement.
  • Anchor space for the Brighton Historical Society.
  • Paper and glass recycling.
  • Storage for community groups.
  • A bus stop for schoolchildren.
  • A small lending library.

Town Councilman Keith Zuspan described property as a premium and finite resource in the canyon: "Once it disappears, it never comes back," he said.

The town of Brighton took a first step Tuesday in potentially purchasing the well-loved Silver Fork Lodge.
The town of Brighton took a first step Tuesday in potentially purchasing the well-loved Silver Fork Lodge. (Photo: Silver Fork Lodge)

He also pointed to the property's value and emphasized the purchase would be an investment, and if the town changes its mind after buying the lodge, it can always resell it for a premium.

Some leaders suggested the possibility of someone else buying the lodge and "ruining" it by doing something the residents don't approve of. By signing the right of first refusal, the town now has some control over who buys the lodge, Zuspan said.

The council also listed potential downsides of buying the property: annual maintenance and repair costs, the need to hire a building manager, potentially contracting with a concessionaire, and the perceived conflict of interest with the mayor being the seller.

The agreement

The right of first refusal agreement stipulates that for $100,000 down, the town gets priority on purchasing the lodge for $4.5 million. If anyone else makes an offer on the lodge, the town can match the price and secure the property, or it can cede the purchase if the offer is too high. If no other offers arise within one year, the original $100,000 will go toward the purchase price. The contract also gives the town an out: If it decides not to purchase the lodge within a year, and no other offers have been made, the town can pay $500,000 and not buy it.

Brighton, which became an incorporated town in 2020, has a fund balance of $4.7 million that the council said was solely collected through the community resort tax and transient room tax.

The Town Council contends since that much money was collected in the town's first three years, which included pandemic years, the town will be able to replenish the fund in the next three years.

The Silver Fork Lodge is covered in snow in Brighton on Jan. 11, 2023.
The Silver Fork Lodge is covered in snow in Brighton on Jan. 11, 2023. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The agreement also says the town has 120 days from signing the right of first refusal to do "material due diligence," where it can back out of the agreement if it deems the purchase is not worth it. Regardless, the original $100,000 payment will not be given back.

Town Councilwoman Carolyn Keigley said it's important for the town to look into preserving the lodge, especially since conditions of the agreement allow the town to walk away from it. "I think Silver Fork Lodge is worth that loss," she said of the down payment. "I want it preserved."

Residents split

Thirty community members voiced their opinions during a Town Hall meeting Tuesday evening at the fire station, with many being against the idea and multiple residents who supported it questioning what the future of the lodge would look like.

Residents Laney Jones and Matt Mudek offered their support for the signing of the right of first refusal, saying it's a good investment to give the town time to answer all questions brought up, as well as some control over who buys the property.

Mudek said it's a "once in a lifetime opportunity for the town to secure the legacy of the lodge" and that the council would regret if leaders didn't sign it.

Others aren't so sure.

John Cooper said he thinks the town could be "opening a can of worms" by purchasing the lodge. He wants preservation of the property as it's an "icon of the canyon," but contended $4.5 million is too much.

Carolyn Morehouse said she worries about the public's perception of a town using public funds to buy the mayor's restaurant. If historic preservation is important, she suggested the town could get the lodge classified as an official historic building, which would add additional regulations for any future property owner.

Several residents suggested looking at other less-expensive locations, such as near the fire station or closer to the main road loop in Brighton, to create a community center. Ulrich Brunhart said it would be cheaper to buy land and construct a building that perfectly fits the town's needs rather than paying for the lodge.

Multiple residents voiced support for the lodge to remain a restaurant, including Jan Slaughter, who pointed out Silver Fork Lodge is the only full-time restaurant in the canyon.

Brian Reynolds suggested the town partner with a knowledgeable restaurant group that could buy the lodge rather than the town buying the lodge and assuming all the risk.

Larry Meyer said it "isn't a fiduciary sound plan," and Bruce Engelhard said the $4.5 million could be used on infrastructure for the town such as bathrooms at trailheads, trail maintenance, bike lanes, better parking lots and more.

Others emphasized the volatility of the restaurant business and wondered if it would even be profitable if the town plans to discontinue the lodge's use for weddings and overnight stays. Some expressed concern that if the lodge got different management, they wouldn't run it with the same passion and success as its current owner.

A few residents even requested the town put this purchase on a referendum so residents could vote on it. But town attorney Polly McLean said it's not feasible to have a referendum for a sale of property when the next election isn't until November 2025, and it's hard to get permission to host a special election.


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Cassidy Wixom covers Utah County communities and is the evening breaking news reporter for


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