Guest Editorial, February 25-28, 2012 | ParkRecord.com

Guest Editorial, February 25-28, 2012

Kurt Peterson

Hard to believe, given the present state of the economy, that Park City’s last historical roadway is being threatened by development, but the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission has forwarded a positive recommendation to the County Council to approve Stone Ridge Development, a 230-unit subdivision that will connect to Old Ranch Road (ORR).

As residents of Old Ranch Road for a decade, my family has come to enjoy the lifestyle ORR offers its residents and visitors. We feel the fields, the foxes, the elk, the grazing cattle, the bald eagles and other birds of prey, the old barns and, yes, even the small two-lane road with all its potholes, add to the character and charm of the area. To allow the urban sprawl of the Snyderville Basin to overwhelm the character of this very special and unique neighborhood would be totally disheartening. After two years of input from many residents and others who appreciate Old Ranch Road for the jewel it is, and understand the historical significance the roadway holds in preserving Park City’s past, I would trust that the County Council will listen to the constituents they serve.

I’m surprised, in a progressive community like Park City, that this roadway has not already been designated a "Historical Byway." I encourage the council to find a way to preserve and protect it from the pressures of misguided urban sprawl. To sacrifice this historical road for a project that has been approved under a veil of providing the community with affordable housing through a well-intended but failed (and already recalled) county code called the "CORE" would be tragic.

The significance of this road way is immeasurable. Growth has already engulfed a number of the historical sites on ORR, yet there still exists an opportunity to honor those sites through signage and monuments that will educate and remind residents and visitors alike of the area’s colorful past, and preserve the remaining sites. Famous travelers like Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Horace Greeley enjoyed the same epic views of the Wasatch Mountains that still dominate the horizon today. While staying at the Kimball Hotel the three of them were fed local trout pulled from East Canyon Creek. The collective brilliance of these three men could not have foreseen what Park City has now become. With each home built on the ridge or in one of the fields we get further and further distant from that colorful past.

Among the remaining historical sites are:

  • The century-old Stahle Ranch, at the first 90 degree turn, which has been painstakingly restored and preserved by the Barndt family;
  • The Osguthorpe Brothers’ farm at the second 90 degree turn where a hip-roofed hay barn from the turn of the century still stands. The farm is still being actively farmed by the Osguthorpe family, who were recently given the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award for conservation and sustainable agriculture;
  • The irreplaceable Swaner Park and Wetlands Preserve, whose open grass and wetlands remain very much the same since Twain and crew traveled through the basin; and finally
  • The once-renowned Kimball Hotel (on Bitner Road), considered one of the most luxurious accommodations along the Overland Stage and Pony Express Routes.

    These places together tell an incredible story, one that deserves to be told, protected, and preserved, not ignored, undervalued and overrun by "progress." At this point in history, I would think it wise to judge progress not by what was "built" but perhaps by what was "not allowed to be built but what was actually saved and preserved." If this project is really about affordable housing, then there are certainly better, less sensitive places than ORR to locate it.

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    The CORE program was a "pilot" program put in place by the county that gave the County Council total discretionary power to either approve or deny "for any reason" an applicant under this code. To quote one of the basin’s longtime ranchers, "Houses are the last crop, and there is no turning back after that crop is planted."

    Words of great truth.