Coalville misses the boom
As most cities in the area grew in the past decade, new Census data showed a once proud mining town near the northern edge of Summit County is smaller.
According to the 2010 Census, Coalville lost about 1.4 percent of its population about 19 people — in the last decade. The city, which is the county seat, now has about 1,363 residents.
In contrast, other rural towns in Summit County grew in the last 10 years. Oakley grew by 55 percent and Francis grew by 54 percent.
With a population of 1,811, Kamas grew by 42 percent and the population of Henefer is up 12 percent. The new census numbers showed that Coalville was the only city in Summit County that shrunk.
Coalville resident Clinton Lewis said he recently moved his welding business to the town from Heber.
Coalville’s lack of growth makes him nervous, Lewis said in an interview at his shop on Monday.
"I’m really surprised," Lewis said. "I love Coalville."
Lewis also bought a house near the corner of Main Street and Chalk Creek Road.
"I’m thinking people are going to have to move here, it’s just so beautiful," Lewis said.
But Coalville may not have enough housing to support a population influx, he added.
"I don’t see any homes going up," Lewis said.
Coalville was once a hotbed for mining, agriculture and mink ranching, but today people leave the town to find jobs. Mines that dotted the landscape drew people to Coalville decades ago after coal was discovered in the 1800s. Today most of the mines have been filled in.
Buildings along Main Street sit vacant even as city officials spruce up downtown.
"This place hurts for restaurants," Lewis said.
Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt said a building that housed a theater sat empty on Main Street for years before the Ponce family opened a Mexican grocery store last weekend.
"They had to do a lot of work to get that in that building," Schmidt said.
Some buildings in the town are dilapidated, making it difficult to attract new businesses, he added.
Librada Ponce said her family spent months repairing the building before the grocery store opened.
"There were many holes everywhere and the building was not in good condition," Ponce said in an interview at her store on Monday. "This building was really bad."
But Ponce said her husband, Candelario, decided to open the market after he met Latinos living in Coalville.
"They said they needed a Mexican market here," she said. "We are really nervous because it’s really small and we don’t know how many Spanish-speaking people are living here."
Coalville resident Leon Simister said he closed his gift boutique on Main Street a few years ago.
"A town can only do as well as its businesses and they are failing left and right," Simister said in a telephone interview Monday. "Coalville has really dropped in stature."
The town has become a "bedroom community," he explained.
"If people like to shop, they go elsewhere. They don’t even buy their gas here most of them," Simister said.
He lamented that many homes in the town are on the market.
"You drive around Coalville and everything is for sale. There are houses here for sale that I never thought would be for sale," Simister said. "But the older homes are something the young people aren’t going to buy. We’re lacking a lot of young blood here in Coalville and I don’t know what you do to change that status."
Schmidt said new medium-income housing is needed for the town to grow.
"You’ve got plenty of houses for sale here, but you don’t have new houses for sale," he said. "I think a lot of it revolves around a lack of what is available."
According to Schmidt, "the last couple years it’s been horrible as far as growth."
"I don’t know that we’re in a freefall, but we do need to see some growth here," Schmidt said.
Our view: The somewhat skeptical reaction to the news among residents shows the care the developer must take to ensure the project aligns with Parkites’ vision for the community.