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Record editorial: Christian Center has lit up Park City for 20 years

For people who are new to the Wasatch Back, it can be hard to picture the area without the Christian Center of Park City.

But it was only in 2000 that the nonprofit opened its doors in a small space on Iron Horse Drive. In the two decades since, the Christian Center has established itself as a pillar of Park City, taking its place alongside the other organizations that make our community welcoming, vibrant and inclusive.

As the Christian Center celebrates its 20th anniversary — now in fancy new digs on Deer Valley Drive — Parkites have an opportunity to express their gratitude for the nonprofit and the many people who have helped it flourish.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Christian Center’s services, and hundreds of Parkites can count themselves among those who have benefited from them.

The food pantries, perhaps the nonprofit’s most vital offering, have kept countless people from going hungry in the Wasatch Back over the years. The mental health and counseling programs have provided aid and comfort for those who may not have been able to find it anywhere else. The annual back-to-school supply drive equips children to learn each fall, and Operation Hope ensures they have a merry Christmas each December.

The list goes on.

As terrible as 2020 has been in almost every respect, it is fitting that the Christian Center is celebrating a milestone this year — the nonprofit has never shined brighter than it has during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to feeding Parkites who have lost jobs or seen their wages reduced, the Christian Center has put hundreds of thousands of dollars toward rent payments and utility bills for more than 800 families through its Basic Needs Assistance fund. Put simply, it has been an irreplaceable lifeline for Parkites over the last six months.

Doubtless, it will continue to fill that role as long as the pandemic persists.

But it won’t happen on its own.

That’s why the best way for Parkites to show thanks for the Christian Center’s 20 years of service to the community is to help it fulfill its mission. Donate food, money or supplies. Volunteer. Find a way to contribute.

Become part of a legacy that will continue lighting up Park City for many decades to come.

More information about the Christian Center, including how to donate, is available at ccofpc.org.

Record editorial: Don’t wait until tomorrow to learn the warning signs of suicide

What are the warning signs of suicide? What should one do if someone they know is exhibiting them? Where can someone experiencing suicidal thoughts turn for help?

For many people in our community, these questions are not merely hypothetical. It is likely most Summit County residents know someone who has committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide. And the risk of a friend or loved one becoming suicidal is ever-present as depression and mental illness are health issues that can affect anyone, regardless of wealth, social status or any other factor.

That’s why every Summit County resident should know the answers to those questions. But for those who don’t, the next few days are a perfect time to learn. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and residents should mark the month by becoming prepared to take helpful action if they or someone in their lives becomes suicidal.

Don’t wait until tomorrow because tomorrow could be too late. Utah has long had one of the nation’s highest suicide rates, and experts have also noted that many western mountain resort towns, in particular, struggle with the issue.

The coronavirus pandemic has only heightened the urgency. On top of the despair that comes with losing a job, the death of a loved one or falling seriously ill — as well as the existential worry that accompanies such a frightening time — it just so happens that something that is harmful for our mental health is one of the best ways to avoid contracting the disease. Humans are not wired to be isolated. For many people, the lack of contact with others has been the most challenging aspect of the last six months.

Since the early days of the pandemic, mental health advocates have worried about the toll it would take on mental health. The data thus far shows there was good cause for alarm: According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late June, 40% of American adults “reported struggling with mental health or substance use,” and 11% seriously considered suicide.

It’s impossible to determine whether those numbers reflect the reality in Summit County, but if they do, that would mean hundreds of people here have considered suicide recently.

Suicide is a danger that no community can run from. So we must become educated.

You might save the life of a loved one — or maybe even your own.

There are several suicide-prevention resources available. Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The National Alliance on Mental Health Utah offers a number of programs to help people who are struggling with depression. They can be found at namiut.org. Connect Summit County, a local nonprofit, also provides mental health resources at connectsummitcounty.org.

Record editorial: Support public lands at the ballot box

With fall colors in full bloom, it is likely many Parkites will be retreating to the great outdoors this weekend in search of mountain air and recreation before the cool temperatures of autumn fully set in at the higher elevations.

It will be an appropriate time to be outside, as Saturday is National Public Lands Day. Enjoying the abundance of nature is a fitting way to celebrate, but those of us who recreate in the wilderness would be remiss to allow that to be the extent of our observance of the day. We must also consider the ways we can ensure the immense public lands in Summit County and elsewhere in the state will be available for future generations.

That cannot be taken for granted; the sad reality is that public lands here and throughout the country are under assault.

The threat comes in the form of the ever-growing shadow of climate change, which will irreparably harm wilderness and the animals that live in it, as well as from lawmakers who view public lands not as a prized resource to protect but as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.

Among the lawmakers with that outlook are Rob Bishop, Mike Lee and a slew of folks in the Utah Legislature. Their efforts, of course, were most visible during the dispute over Bears Ears National Monument, ultimately resulting in the Trump administration slashing the amount of protected land in Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument by hundreds of thousands of acres.

The assault on public lands is antithetical to our values in Park City, where we care about preserving the majesty of nature and where the preservation of open space has been one of our community’s greatest successes in recent decades.

So how can Parkites fight back? At the ballot box.

When candidates knock on your door or ring your telephone in search of your vote, tell them they won’t get it without a promise to safeguard Utah’s public lands.

Tell them they won’t get it without supporting policies to make our air cleaner and our watersheds safer. Tell them they won’t get it without assurance that they understand that humans are driving climate change and that they’ll take aggressive legislative action to curb the threat.

This November, let’s put in power people at all levels of government who share our passion for preserving the outdoors, people who will fight as hard as we have over the years for something essential: ensuring public lands remain in public hands.

Record editorial: Young people, driving state’s COVID-19 surge, must take pandemic seriously

Get it together, young people.

In recent days, the state has experienced its largest coronavirus surge since July, with an all-time high of 1,117 new cases Friday.

What’s behind the spike? According to state health officials, it’s more a matter of who: young people, particularly among the 15- to 24-year-old age group.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief because young, healthy people are generally less likely to die or become seriously ill from the virus, understand that it’s not that simple. In addition to the fact that there are plenty of younger Americans among the nearly 200,000 who have lost their lives to COVID-19, health experts are clear that the ripple effects may be disastrous as young infected people spread the disease to others.

Said Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday: “I think this younger population really is acting as kind of the canary in the coal mine.”

The trend of young people contracting the virus at a high rate is not isolated to elsewhere in the state. The transmission of COVID-19 in Summit County has stabilized in recent weeks after the fallout from a “superspreader” party in August, but County Health Director Rich Bullough says many of the new cases here lately are in young adults.

For those of us doing what’s necessary to slow the coronavirus — and in Summit County, that’s most of us — it’s frustrating to see cases back on the rise in Utah due to the carelessness of people who apparently don’t feel vulnerable to COVID-19.

But the age groups driving the surge need to understand something: They’re young but not invincible. Just as important, the people around them aren’t invincible either.

It’s time for them to take the pandemic as seriously as everyone else, before their actions put other people’s lives at stake and drag down Utah’s economy, which seems primed to continue its strong recovery as long as the coronavirus is kept in check. That includes social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings and wearing masks around others — the steps most of the rest of us have been taking for six months now.

If they don’t, the consequences will be severe, even if young people aren’t the ones who ultimately suffer most.

As the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. We now need to make sure the gift of youth doesn’t turn into a curse for everyone else.

Record editorial: Transparency about COVID-19 case counts in schools is crucial

Transparency is the best policy, particularly during a crisis.

The Park City School District, following the example of other school systems around the state, took a major step in that direction last week when it began providing information about the number of COVID-19 cases in each school. The district also pledged to notify parents whenever there is a case in their child’s classroom.

This is data the community needs to know. For faculty members and parents who have sent their children to class in person, as the vast majority have opted to do rather than pursue remote learning, there’s peace of mind in knowing how many active cases there are in each school and that they’ll be told if and when a student has tested positive.

Judging from the first batch of numbers the district released, the situation to this point is encouraging. As of Sunday, there were only two active cases in the district — one at Treasure Mountain Junior High and another at Park City High School. Like everything where the coronavirus is concerned, the situation has the potential to change quickly, but parents will breathe easier knowing they are not sending their children out the door in the morning and into a large COVID-19 outbreak.

Not providing that assurance allows the rumor mill to churn, as it has since the school year started last month, with speculation swirling on social media and in email chains about potential cases at schools. Now, rather than trying to tease out the truth while scrolling through Facebook, where fear often trumps fact, parents can refer to the hard data from the district. They can also be assured that, should their student be exposed to an infected person at school, they will still be notified by the district or a health official.

For now, the district says the COVID-19 numbers will be updated weekly. Given how rapidly the virus can spread, though, officials should consider providing updates more frequently — two or three times a week, if not daily, even if the numbers don’t change that often.

Many parents would appreciate that added layer of transparency.

The start of school has not been without bumps. Critics of the district’s reopening have been vocal, particularly a segment of teachers who said they didn’t feel safe returning to classrooms without more significant safety measures in place (district officials, in response, have pointed to more than $1.7 million in COVID-related expenditures and the exhaustive efforts that went into crafting a reopening plan).

The publication of the active case counts does not erase those concerns. But it will go a long way toward reassuring parents, students and staff members on a day-to-day basis that the virus is not running rampant in schools.

The importance of that is difficult to overstate.

More information about the district’s COVID-19 numbers can be found at pcschools.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/COVID-Exposure-and-Response-Protocol1-Google-Docs.pdf.

Correction: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that the district would notify parents whenever there is a positive case in their child’s school. Superintendent Jill Gildea clarified that parents will be notified only when there is a positive case in their child’s classroom or if there is spread of COVID-19 in a school beyond an isolated case.

Record editorial: Doubts about mail-in voting? Utah shows the system works.

Due to the dangers and impracticality of voting in person during the worst pandemic in a century, millions of Americans this fall will be casting ballots by mail for the first time.

In Summit County and the rest of Utah, we’ll be voting by mail, too. For us, though, it’s old hat — our elections have been largely conducted that way since 2016, and the system has been incredibly successful. Officials credit it with increasing voter turnout, unsurprising given the convenience it offers. And that’s to say nothing of the benefit of being able to make better-informed decisions by digging into candidates and issues with the aid of an internet browser and other informational materials at hand while filling out a ballot.

Those benefits are why it’s been jarring for many Utahns to see the national furor erupting over the security of mail-in voting, with President Trump leading a charge to undermine faith in the system and, ultimately, to preemptively question the legitimacy of November’s election.

Utah officials, to their credit, have pushed back on the debunked notion that mail-in voting is somehow less safe than casting a ballot in person.

Following a tweet from the president falsely stating that widespread use of mail-in ballots would make the presidential election fraudulent, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah’s top election official, countered the claim in a tweet of his own. “Utah is a model of showing vote-by-mail can be successful and secure,” he said, adding that Utah is willing to help other states implement their own mail-in voting systems.

Likewise, Gov. Gary Herbert and at least two Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation also split with the president on the issue, disagreeing with his suggestion that the election should be delayed.

Given the frightening implications for American democracy of a sitting president sowing distrust in our election system, it’s imperative for the state’s leadership to speak up and reassure citizens that their votes will be counted and that mail-in voting will not affect the election’s legitimacy. As one of a handful of states to pioneer vote-by-mail — and a heavily Republican state, notably — Utah has a powerful voice on this issue.

Will there be widespread concern this fall about Utah’s election results? That’s doubtful, given our familiarity with vote-by-mail.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said in other places where casting a ballot through the mail is a relatively new concept. There will likely even be some Utahns skeptical of the national returns in the presidential race, given how Trump has stoked such fears.

Hopefully, the example of Utah — and continued reassurances from its leaders as the election nears — can help quell those concerns. There are plenty of things Utahns can gripe about when it comes to their representation at the state and congressional levels. But access to the ballot is not one of them.

In Utah, we do voting right. This fall, the rest of the nation should look to our example.

Record editorial: Restoration of mining-era relic should make Parkites proud

In Park City, we love to celebrate our history.

It was terrific news, then, when Deer Valley Resort earlier this year acquired the land where the Daly West Mine head frame, one of the most prominent relics dating to Park City’s mining era, has lain on its side since collapsing in 2015, with the intent of restoring the derrick-like structure. Recently, a City Hall panel approved plans for the restoration of the 85-foot-tall head frame, meaning it will be upright again sometime in the near future, with the work expected to begin next year.

When that happens, it will be reason to rejoice. Our mining heritage is something all Parkites should treasure.

Yet there are a finite amount of mining-era structures standing in Park City, and there’s cause for concern that the number may dwindle further in the coming decades as deterioration — like the fall of the head frame in 2015 or partial building collapses in each of the last two winters at the Silver King Mine complex near the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort — befalls the structures.

Preserving the relics we can is critical.

But the restoration of the Daly West head frame will not happen on its own. It was not guaranteed. No, it’s a direct result of the passion of dedicated Parkites who understand the importance of holding on to our history.

It looked for a while like even that was not going to be enough to save the head frame before Deer Valley stepped in and spent $35,000 to buy the land. Also contributing to the effort is the Empire Pass homeowners association, which is partnering with Deer Valley for the restoration work and is footing some of the bill.

Parkites should be proud to live in a place that prioritizes its history and where people are willing to stand up and preserve it. The same cannot be said of every community.

When the work is done, we will be able to venture up to the Daly West Mine, stop for a while and appreciate a 45-ton testament to the work of the miners who built Park City. Thanks to those who have pushed to save the head frame, that will be true for generations to come.

Record editorial: Pandemic has elevated our appreciation for Park City’s workers

It will be the Miners Day that wasn’t.

On Monday, Parkites won’t flock to Old Town for the annual Main Street parade. The mucking and drilling competition — that beloved spectacle that keeps us tethered to the past and offers a glimpse of a time when mining, not skiing, drove Park City’s economy — will not take place, nor will the other festivities typically held at City Park throughout the day.

Another tradition the coronavirus pandemic has stripped from the summer.

And yet: Perhaps at no time in the recent past has the spirit of Miners Day, in which we celebrate the laborers who built the town, been so apparent.

This Miners Day, we are looking at the Parkites who have carried on the legacy of the miners — the restaurant waitstaff, the grocery store clerks, the lifties and countless others — through the lens of the pandemic.

When the crisis hit in March, the lives of everyone in Park City changed in one way or another. But it was people in the working class, by and large, who have suffered the most.

They’ve seen their wages slashed or their jobs disappear. They’ve spent sleepless nights wondering how they are going to keep their children fed and clothed. They’re living, many of them, with the looming threat of eviction as unpaid mortage or rent payments pile up month after month.

That’s to say nothing of the fact that many have been thrust onto the front lines of the pandemic, working jobs that were deemed “essential” or that require frequent contact with other people.

Unfortunately, Park City’s workers will continue to face challenges as we enter the fall and winter. Even when the health risks of the coronavirus diminish — perhaps if a vaccine becomes widely available in the next several months — the economic effects of the pandemic are likely to linger, possibly for years.

Like the miners of old, our workers are the backbone of Park City. The community must rally around them and help them weather these difficult times.

This Miners Day, we’ll go without most of the traditions that make the holiday beloved in Park City. It’s disappointing, no doubt, and hopefully next September we will gather again to wave as parade floats saunter down Main Street and to cheer on the participants of the mucking and drilling contest.

But the absence of the celebrations on Monday won’t stop us of from observing the true meaning of the holiday: expressing gratitude for the workers whose sweat and sacrifice make Park City what it is.

Record editorial: Four Statehouse races are on the ballot. Your vote counts.

The coronavirus pandemic. Biden versus Trump. The unrest that continues to sweep the nation.

Hideout’s annexation attempt. The bumpy return to school in Park City. The economy’s uncertain prospects as ski season nears.

Those are only some of the stories, both national and local, that well-informed Summit County residents will be following over the next few months. It’s enough to make even a news junkie’s head spin. So it’s understandable if some residents are viewing the lack of contested county-level races this election season — an unfortunate reality after Republicans failed to field a challenger for a single County Courthouse post — as a respite from the mayhem.

It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss the down-ballot races this fall. Seats in four of the five legislative districts that stretch into Summit County will be decided: House Districts 28, 53 and 54, along with Senate District 19. In a rarity, every single voter in Summit County will have a contested Statehouse race on their ballot, while those in Senate District 19, which covers Coalville and neighborhoods like Jeremy Ranch and Glenwild, will have two.

Though it’s just a 45-minute drive down Interstate 80, the Statehouse can sometimes feel as far away from Summit County as Washington, D.C. Except in instances like the Hideout annexation controversy, where something major happens directly as a result of legislation, it can be difficult to see how what goes on during the brief legislative session each winter impacts life on this side of the Wasatch Range. The notion that Summit County is sometimes overlooked in the Legislature is a valid criticism that many residents share.

But what happens in Salt Lake City matters. The people we elect to the Statehouse make decisions that affect our communities, whether or not we can easily see the link between their votes on the Senate or House floor and our daily lives. From education funding to liquor regulations to air quality, they shape what life in Utah looks like.

No, the legislative races this fall will not earn the widespread attention of the presidential election, or even Utah’s congressional contests. You aren’t likely to catch the Statehouse hopefuls making their pitches on a cable news station. Most of the candidates are not even household names in their own districts.

That doesn’t make the races any less important.

They are your candidates. They are running to be your voice in the Legislature. Make sure that when it comes time to cast your vote, you’re prepared to send the person who will best represent you to the Statehouse.

Record editorial: A ski season with COVID-19 changes beats no ski season at all

Get ready for the first socially distanced ski season.

Though the weather is still hot in Park City, and the mountainsides haven’t yet changed color, Parkites have been counting the days until winter ever since the resorts closed early last year as the coronavirus began to spread. One of the biggest uncertainties that has loomed in the ensuing months is what the on-mountain experience will look like amid the pandemic.

On Thursday, residents got an answer as Vail Resorts unveiled plans for the season at its ski areas, including Park City Mountain Resort. Skiers and snowboarders can expect to wear masks and remain apart from people from other groups on chairlifts and in gathering areas and — in the biggest revelation of all — they’ll need to make reservations before heading up to the mountain. It remains to be seen what sort of restrictions Deer Valley Resort owner Alterra Mountain Company will put in place but there will likely be many similarities.

There’s no getting around it: Some of the changes are going to be uncomfortable. The reservation requirement, particularly, will be challenging. It will force Parkites to plan well in advance and eliminates the cherished Park City tradition of taking a long lunch on a whim to get in some turns.

How will it play out in practice? We’ll find out in a few months.

But it’s clear Vail Resorts has taken a thoughtful approach to the question of how to operate a bustling ski resort during a pandemic.

In doing so, the company has recognized two things that are true for both itself and for Park City: One, we have to have a ski season. Our economy (and the company’s bottom line) depends on it. And two, the only way to have a ski season is to do so safely.

Of course, operations at the resorts are only one factor that will determine whether we can pull off a successful winter. We will also be at the mercy of national economic conditions and the health situation. If the virus is running rampant, the degree of difficulty will grow exponentially. That’s a big reason why the actions of Summit County health officials have been among the most aggressive in the state and why our leaders have pleaded with us to do what is necessary to slow the spread of the disease.

It’s not going to be a typical winter. The bumps along the way won’t be confined to the moguls on the mountain. But by putting strict measures in place, Vail Resorts has seemingly done its part to get the ski season out of the starting gates.