Guest Editorial: Mountain Accord’s benefits haven’t been shown
June 16, 2015
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to everything that’s in the Mountain Accord blueprint. Planning is a good thing. In fact, in another life, data collection, cost benefit analysis and planning was my job. I do have a few concerns however about this plan, but if Letters to the Editor are any indication, I’m mostly concerned about you, the readers’ input, or lack thereof.
Thus far the only voices about the Mountain Accord (MA) appearing in The Park Record are from politicians and special interests. Yes, they have a stake in all this but you and I have a much bigger stake. I urge you to go to the MA web site and read the blueprint.
It gives me pause that the MA attempts to merge ‘protecting the natural environment’ with ‘a vibrant economy.’ Who ends up winning more often than not when these two factions come together? Maybe too much Edward Abby and not enough Forbes?
However, it’s the cost-benefit implications of the MA blueprint’s Transportation Corridor Purposes and Alternatives that gives me the most heartburn. Up to this point, the MA has not addressed how some of its extreme transportation alternatives will affect short- and long-term outcomes in Park City, but particularly Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. ‘Build it and they will come’ isn’t good enough.
Let’s get real. What value added benefit is accrued to the Wasatch Front by connecting Park City to the Cottonwoods beyond convenience, bragging rights and an advertising hook? Where’s the data? How many additional skier dollars will come to Utah after spending millions to create light rail and aerial trams to and through the mountains short- and long-term? Yes, TUNNELING INTO THE MOUNTAINS is a MA option!
How many more skiers/boarders can our resorts hold during the busy holiday periods? There are too many unguided missiles on the slopes already, ask ski patrol.
Light rail up the Cottonwoods? Maybe something to consider but goodbye vehicle transportation because there isn’t room for both unless you bridge the roads. High-cost vehicle permits to drive the Canyons to control pollution, traffic and parking is a better option in concert with a more efficient bus system.
Now for the biggest elephant in the room: reliable snow pack accumulation is likely to decrease. We witnessed the decrease in skier days last season because of marginal snow conditions and that’s likely to be a recurring trend. Global warming and subsequent pine beetle tree kills (less shade, more evaporation) will require resorts to modify base operations. Less snow, water and warm temperatures will inhibit snow making. Less snow will result in decreased demand and lost revenue unless resorts raise prices. Increased prices will deter local skiers. If this scenario materializes will the considerable costs of tunneling, light rail and aerial transportation to ski resorts be worth the cost?
Why not wait and see how the Park City Canyons connection works and study other experiences at connected resorts in Canada. Perhaps connecting Park City to the Cottonwoods by air will have merit someday, if watershed protection can be guaranteed. But that’s a lot of digging folks and the mining industry has left some toxic stuff behind that’s likely to leach into the aquifer, as former Mayor Dana Williams reminds us. So, buy your Brittas now and invest in the soon to-be-public offering: Starbucks and McDonalds In Tram Service. But please don’t spill your latte on my ski boots.