Leadership Park City XXI introduces Neighbor Day | ParkRecord.com

Leadership Park City XXI introduces Neighbor Day

Events in recent months have challenged and often divided the American population. People have taken to social media to draw lines and separate themselves from their neighbors, families and friends over same-sex marriage, immigration, police brutality and racism.

Even in Park City, differences of opinion about dogs, fireworks and such have caused friction within neighborhoods.

Leadership Park City Class of XXI would like that to change and plans to provide the tools to bring neighbors together for a big celebration on Sept. 26, which it has designated as Neighbor Day.

Leadership Park City is a city-sponsored program designed to identify and train individuals for leadership roles. Each year a class will conceive a service project designed to leave a legacy and benefit Park City and Summit County, according to singer and songwriter Mary Beth Maziarz, who is a member of this year’s class.

"There have been a lot of amazing things done by past Leadership Classes, so we felt we had a tough challenge to come up with something relevant and new, but that will also affect Park City in a measurable way," Maziarz said. "We felt we had a great legacy to live up to."

The class planted the seed for Neighbor Day during a discussion in March.

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"When I was an American Culture major at Northwestern University, we examined all aspects of American culture and one of the things we studied was how architecture affected communities," Maziarz said. "I brought up that, years ago, Park City was a mining town and we had front porches, as was the traditional architecture at the time. But over the years, especially in the Post-War era, there was an influx of people who needed homes, so pre-fab and modular housing emerged."

These homes were set further back from the street and the garages were attached to the home for convenience.

"The yards became less used because air conditioning and TV became readily available to the average person, so people stopped going outside during the summer, which lessened the opportunity for neighbors to chat with one another," Maziarz said. "We became more insulated by the comforts of home and it became trickier for them to develop long-standing and deep relationships with their neighbors."

In addition, Park City faces a different issue.

"While we still have Old Town neighborhoods with architecture that gives people opportunities to be social, we also have a population of second-home owners whom many of us year-round residents don’t see as often," Maziarz said. "I think they want to be part of the community and take part in the social life here, but don’t have many opportunities to do so."

The issue is more prevalent in the suburbs such as Pinebrook and Park Meadows.

"You have a little more room for the kids and dogs, but the homes are further back from the street," Maziarz said.

So, she and a few of the class proposed Neighbor Day, a project designed to connect neighbors and strengthen relationships.

"You know, we do know there are more serious problems facing Park City, but this was an approachable, solvable issue that we felt we could work toward," Maziarz said.

After voting to commence the project, the class did some research and discovered studies that listed the benefits of neighbor interaction.

"People age better and are healthier, happier and safer the more we talk with each other and develop acquaintances at the very least and friendships at the most," Maziarz said. "Neighbor Day will be the day when we will encourage as many neighborhoods as possible to host some kind of event."

The events can be anything that will bring neighbors together.

"They can be small and informal like a gathering on a front porch or in a backyard," she said. "They can be something really big like a food-truck gathering at a park or they can be a barbecue with all the residents of an apartment complex. Whatever it is, we encourage people to find unique and relevant ways to connect with their neighbors on a more personal basis."

To promote this project, members of Leadership Class XXI will have a presence at a number of the Grand Valley Bank Community Concerts held at Deer Valley every Wednesday and at the Park Silly Sunday Market on Main Street.

"We will have booths and, for a small donation, hand out nice canvas that people can use to take a gesture of goodwill to a neighbor," Maziarz said. "For example, people can fill these bags with tomatoes from their gardens, or put in resources for local babysitters for a new family who has moved in. We encourage people to be creative, but also be themselves."

Maziarz said this year’s Leadership Class is full of "highly diverse, intelligent and skilled" members.

Local yoga instructor Randi Jo Taurel is one of the class members, and she sees the importance of the project.

"I’ve lived in Park City for 10 years now, and I keep finding that everything keeps growing and changing," Taurel said. "As we grow, I think it’s important to maintain Park City’s character as a small town. It’s a big part of our values and identity. I believe nurturing our relationships will keep part of us in the town.

"I think people expect something like this when they come to our community," she said. "Yes, they do expect new and exciting things and the conveniences and improvement in lifestyles, but I also think they expect that small-town feel. We need to keep that in order to present ourselves honestly to the world."

Taurel supports the project because there is no right or wrong way to do it.

"Anyone and everyone can participate in Neighbor Day," she said. "We can make cookies, or get people together for a hike or a family yoga class. Even if you don’t think you’re good at organizing, you can join other neighborhood events and become more comfortable with people around you."

The class hopes Neighbor Day will become an annual event, Maziarz said.

"We would like to continue this on the fourth Saturday of September each year to return the focus on our neighbors right after the rush of going back to school," she said.

For more information about Leadership Park City, visit http://bit.ly/1NzFUDz.