More Dogs on Main Street
July 1, 2006
Earlier in the week, I was watching TV and there was an ad featuring the Fourth of July. My reaction was about the same as seeing Santa Claus before Labor Day. What’s the rush, I thought. Then it hit me — it’s here. Summer is flying by. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Things are happening more or less on schedule. The June mosquitoes are yielding somewhat to the July flies. There is some insect that is out in huge swarms that hover over the highways in the evenings, and plaster the windshield. If every car up the canyon splatters 10,000 of them, and still they survive, well, that’s one tough species of insect.
It’s been a banner year for the cottonwood trees. The cotton is thick this year. It came off in clumps this year rather than individual seeds. It fell and got hung up in the deep grass. The other day, my dog went prowling around in the deep grass and came back to the house coated with dreadlocks of cotton. She looked more like a Rastafarian lamb than a dog, and seemed to enjoy her disguise. For a while it had gathered in big drifts of cotton. Even without rain, it’s beginning to disappear. I don’t know where it goes, but it finally melts away.
The river has dropped suddenly at my house. We had a huge winter, almost 150 percent of normal snow pack by the end of the season. I assumed the river would hold up this year. But it’s already dropped off to levels that are more typical of late July. I guess that week of 80-degree weather in May sent a lot of the water downstream before there was anything to irrigate. So I’m struggling to keep the water flowing in the irrigation canals. It’s an annual process, but usually doesn’t happen until a month from now. I grouse about having to do it, but in the end, I have to admit that there is something kind of fun about rolling rocks around in the river to divert the flow into the ditches instead of down the main stream of the river.
The last time I hiked up to the head of our main canal, there were butterflies along the bank. They flew in front of me, and before long, I was herding butterflies up the stream. There were dozens of them, swirling around, lighting on rocks then flying again. They stayed in a tight bunch for quite a while before flying off into the trees along the canal bank.
The irrigation problems have been enough of a distraction that I haven’t made much progress on some other projects. One of the oldest buildings on the ranch is a blacksmith shop that dates back to about 1900, if not before. It’s about to tip over, and I’ve got a plan to jack it up, replace the rotten courses of logs on the bottom, put some kind of foundation underneath it, and set it back in place. Then with all the junk moved out of it, I can more or less put it back together. I’m not planning on making any horseshoes, or putting new iron bands on wagon wheels, but should the need arise, all the stuff I’d need is still there under decades of dust.
I’ve been busy enough on the ranch that I haven’t been in town as often as usual. I was shocked the other day on a bike ride to get up where I could see the scope of the excavation going on in almost every direction. The strip mine at the intersection of Browns Canyon and S.R. 248 continues, and new roads have been hacked into the hillsides above for more houses overlooking Jordanelle. From the top of Spin Cycle, I could see the roads penetrating deeper into the West Hills than I had imagined. Looking back to the Park City side of the ridge, there was no shortage of dirt in motion, with new roads and ski runs hacked up the face of Treasure Hill.
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At this writing, it isn’t official yet, but the city council is expected to approve the annexation of the property for the proposed hospital, and dirt could be flying there by this fall. I don’t know if we need a hospital or not, but we surely don’t need any more traffic on S.R. 248.
The mayor was recently featured with Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson in a conference talking about green and sustainable communities. I guess the steps in that direction are incremental, and compared to a lot of places of completely unchecked growth, maybe Park City and Salt Lake are "green." Using fluorescent lighting, wind power, recycling the trash and so on are a start. But when I look at what is happening around here, I have a hard time seeing anything that stands out as green or sustainable. Huge houses that sit vacant with steam rising from their heated driveways, sprawling subdivisions and a commuter traffic problem based on an economy that requires most households to send at least one car down the hill to Salt Lake every day — I don’t think of that as a model of a green or sustainable community. Tasteful architecture helps, but sprawl is sprawl. There is nothing green or sustainable about subdivisions that require retaining walls of 30 or 40 feet to hold their roads on the mountainsides. There are roads being cut up the sides of mountains so steep that you couldn’t drive a herd of sheep up them.
We’ve done a lot in terms of open space acquisition in both the city and county. It’s a great start. We’ve taken some modest steps on water conservation, and have a pretty solid recycling program. All of that is nice, but we (and I mean the larger community including Wasatch County, too) are still wedded to the great American pattern of endless suburban sprawl, and one driver per car commuting into the city. There’s nothing green about that.