Hank Rothwell, central figure in Park City growth battle, dies
He had a 'monumental impact on this community'
Hank Rothwell, the former leader of United Park City Mines and a central figure in Park City’s greatest development controversy, died on Nov. 3. He died after a horse-riding accident, according to an obituary. He was 70.
Rothwell was the president of United Park City Mines for 12 years during a time when the company, the modern-day successor of Park City’s historic silver-mining industry, aggressively pursued development on the vast acreage it secured over the decades as a mining firm.
He held a high-profile role as United Park City Mines in the 1990s held talks with City Hall leaders about what remains the most polarizing development dispute in Park City’s history. The Flagstaff discussions were seen in many ways as a dividing line between the broadly supported growth in the early skiing era and the battles about development that have occurred in the nearly 20 years since Flagstaff was approved.
Flagstaff was a hotly contested annexation of land in Empire Canyon into the Park City limits. The development that was approved as part of the annexation is now known as Empire Pass.
Rothwell appeared at the Marsac Building on behalf of United Park City Mines during the era, arguing the developer’s side of the debate against impassioned opponents who saw the project as far too ambitious on land that was long treasured by recreation lovers even though it was privately held.
A deal was eventually reached among United Park City Mines, Park City leaders and the opposition, allowing the annexation and a redesigned project to proceed. Rothwell left United Park City Mines in 2003 shortly after a merger with a capital firm. United Park City Mines later came under the Talisker corporate umbrella.
“Hank Rothwell meant the world to me as a human being. I owe my entire professional career to Hank Rothwell,” said Rory Murphy, who was a vice president at United Park City Mines for nine years during Rothwell’s tenure as president. “He taught me the profession of real estate development. I apprenticed under him.”
Murphy left the company to pursue his own developments like Silver Star on the edge of Thaynes Canyon. He said Rothwell assisted in the United Park City Mines sale of the Silver Star land to Murphy’s group. Murphy also recalled that Rothwell led a publicly traded United Park City Mines, which he said was “at the time the largest corporate interest in Park City.” He answered to a board of directors with figures based in New York City, Murphy explained.
“Hank was charged with mediating their corporate desire with the realities of the town,” Murphy said. “He did it brilliantly and far more effectively and conscientiously than most people realize and appreciate.”
Murphy, as an example, said it was Rothwell who argued to keep the trails in Empire Canyon open to the public even as United Park City Mines’ ownership wanted them closed. Murphy said Rothwell’s stand was a forebearer for the area’s system of public trails.
Rothwell had a “monumental impact on this community,” Murphy said.
Mayor Jack Thomas was an architectural consultant to United Park City Mines during the Flagstaff discussions years before he took office. He said Rothwell was genuine, transparent and contemplative. He was widely respected, the mayor said.
“He was one of those people, said it the way it is,” Thomas said.
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Among the highlights from Wednesday’s Hops Hike was an impromptu geology lesson from a kilted man on the origins of the area’s mineral deposits.