Break out the Tinkertoys
April 3, 2009
John Phillips moved to Park City for the slopes, a city where he can ski and snowboard when he is not at work as a contractor.
An Old Town resident, Phillips also enjoys the city’s demeanor, a "relaxing atmosphere," as he put it on Tuesday night.
"It’s a place you can let your guard down and go to dinner in casual clothes," Phillips said during a City Hall-organized event at The Yarrow to talk about their likes and dislikes about Park City, adding, "The overall feel of Park City is relaxed."
The event, dubbed Vision Park City 2009, drew more than 100 people and was the start of a wide-ranging discussion about the city’s future. Smaller gatherings were held later in the week.
With consultants leading on Tuesday night at The Yarrow, the Parkites chatted about numerous topics — the reasons why they want to live locally, their concerns about Park City’s future and what they see as Park City’s uniqueness.
They did not delve into detailed talks about widely discussed issues that City Hall regularly handles. Instead the group spoke broadly about the community.
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The consultants, who are from an Alexandria, Va., firm, told the crowd Park City is already a successful place. Many others cities they work with, including those in the Rust Belt and the Central Valley of California, have deeper-rooted problems, they said. Park City, in contrast, is "successively successful," Charles Buki, the principal of the consulting firm czb, said at the gathering.
Some of the people who attended were regular Parkites, but others were community leaders who are often seen at City Hall meetings and are closely monitor the goings-on.
City Hall drafted the consultants and scheduled Vision Park City 2009 as officials prepare to update the General Plan, an overarching document that guides growth in Park City. A similar exercise, although smaller in scale, was held just after the 2002 Winter Olympics. A mid-1990s event was the most recent one of the same scale.
The group at The Yarrow split into smaller gatherings seated at round tables to talk, and the consultants put oversized Tinkertoy sets at the tables. The groups dumped the Tinkertoys onto the table and, at the request of the consultants, built representations of what they see as important in Park City.
The results were a collection of abstract Tinkertoy designs that people at the table tried to explain to the rest of the meeting room. One of the designs represented a microscope, a wind turbine and a bountiful basket. Another table told the others the Tinkertoys showed trails and open space. The table where Mayor Dana Williams sat designed a Tinkertoy piece that represented the five members of the Park City Council and that ideas change as the local government considers them.
Speakers, meanwhile, said Park City is unlike other places, particularly in Utah. They said the community is beautiful, diverse, embraces nature and is a family place. But they also said they have worries about Park City, with some of the topics coming up including a gap between economic classes, traffic, the loss of its historic charm and pollution.
Park City is a "singular place on the planet . . . definitely in planet Utah," said Doug Clyde, a private-sector planner who has worked on major projects like Empire Pass and the base area at Park City Mountain Resort. He also said Park City is "greatly blessed" by its tourism-driven economy.
"That’s why we’re all allowed to live here," Clyde said, speaking for the people at the table.
Another person picked to speak for a table, Sundance Institute official Brooks Addicott, said Park City could resemble a typical suburb someday.
"We believe we’re in danger of looking like Sandy in 10 years," she said.
Rich Wyman, a musician and an activist, spoke for his table as he talked about the rift between people who favor development and those who do not want more projects built. He said, though, Park City is "an oasis in the state of Utah."
"We’re proud that Park City is an oasis," Wyman said.
In an interview afterward, the mayor said comments that intrigued him included one about a homogenous group on Tuesday night talking about diversity and another one contending newcomers to Park City are more resistant to change than people who have lived locally for a long time.
"Different people who live here have different opinions about what life is like here," Williams said.
He also said the people at the event spoke about kindness in Park City.
"Almost every table made a comment that people are caring and nice here," Williams said. "I do see that, even how much we’ve changed."