Guest editorial: Disappointing follow-through on historic preservation provokes doubt
May 26, 2015
When the old Daly West Mine headframe at Deer Valley Ski Resort toppled, it swept an ominous shadow across other teetering structures salvaged from Summit County’s heralded mining history. Unless rescue work saves those aging monuments to that fabled time, all will vanish. A crucial number are evidently now in Vail Resorts’ care.
From a simple business view, preserving remnants of Park City’s historic mining past dotting premier ski property may seem impractical. But doing so confirms that celebrating history conveys its own commercial value.
In fact, when ownership of the structures in question transferred along with ski area rights in a purchase from United Park City Mining, an acknowledged responsibility for stabilizing the disintegrating mining era relics was included. New caretaker, Vail Resorts, has indicated an intention to shoulder that commitment.
So prized are remnants of Park City’s original industrial character that strenuous effort regularly mobilizes whenever it seems necessary to convince ski company developers preservation for such artifacts is materially in their best interest. But though the response has been heartening, disappointing follow-through provokes doubt.
So far, no more than the bare minimum as been done to shield Park City Mountain Resort’s historic assets against ravages inflicted by a high country climate. The Park City Historical Society estimates first priority resuscitation work on certain essential structures now near Daly West headframe’s fate could total roughly $250,000, that, of course, being only a preliminary cost. Vail Resorts says it plans to do $50,000 worth of inventory and repair work, also endorsing a fund-raising campaign benefitting future rehab efforts. Considering the matchless preserved sight-seeing opportunities implied — for winter skiers, summer bikers and hikers in particular — financing along such lines makes sense in a mountain resort business plan.
Resort commerce may have replaced the bygone mining industry as Park City’s economic engine. But it cannot erase the mining industry’s influence on an enshrined birthright. Park City High School’s athletic teams compete as the Miners. Labor Day here is celebrated as Miners Day, featuring the drilling and mucking competitions that exhibit actual once-upon-a-time underground toil. A magnificently up-graded Main Street museum emphasizes Park City mining heritage. The local newspaper carries popular historical accounts of its circulation area’s intriguing bygone age. Other published articles, essays and books — prominently those promoting travel — are authored about Park City’s seminal mining days. Why, then, would heirs of manifestations dating from that time let such possessions die and disappear, as they certainly will if not permanently maintained.
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Park City struggles with an irony: While paying homage to its storied past, it risks accommodating an indifference to the obliteration of irreplaceable connections to that unique story. As the Daly West Mine headframe hit the ground, instant pleas fostered its restoration. Such concern should be heard, echoing through the hills and valley to embrace Park City Mountain Resort as well, where diminished yet still visible evidence — mill housing, ore hoppers and bucket towers, water tanks as well as headframes — if guaranteed protection, can tangibly, infinitely authenticate a Western land-use transformation grown legendary.