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More Dogs on Main Street

We all know that Park City is the center of the universe. The opening banquet for the International Mountain Biking Association’s World Summit was out at the Winter Sports Park Wednesday night. It was a perfect Utah summer evening crystal clear, no wind, and just a little on the chilly side as the sun went down. A crowd of about 400 people was there to socialize and get their bearings before starting a three-day convention dealing with trail access and management issues.

I don’t get to the Winter Sports Park often. I’ve been there maybe once or twice since the Olympics, when I about froze to death helping lost visitors find their way around. I forget what a great facility it is. The view over the valley is incredible. Swaner seems bigger and Redstone seems smaller from up there. You can see to Wyoming. The Flying Aces show is amazing, and something you won’t see anyplace else.

When it comes to recreational trails, Park City is the center of the universe this week. If you like to hike, ride a bike, ride a horse, or do anything else that involves getting more than 100 feet from the scenic-overlook parking lot, this convention is about you. These are the people who make it happen. The trail policy wonks here this week are as important to your ability to ride a bike and the quality of that experience as the people who manufactured the bike itself.

Here in Park City, we have turned conventional wisdom about trails on its end. You can build public-access trails over private land through gated communities so exclusive that Warren Buffett couldn’t just drive in and the sun will still rise, real-estate prices will benefit, and the big-screen TVs will remain safely bolted to their home-theater walls. It seems so completely natural here, but is, in fact, quite surprising to a lot of people from other places.

Governor Huntsman spoke to the crowd, welcoming them to Utah and apologizing for being in a suit instead of his biking clothes. He’s a mountain biker. I think most were expecting the governor of Utah to look like Brigham Young. Huntsman was an unexpected hit. Four hundred people isn’t a particularly big convention. There aren’t many conventions twice that size for which the governor adjusts his schedule to personally open. He wanted to be at the IMBA Summit. It begins to give you hope that things are changing when it comes to the state’s relationship with Mother Nature. Huntsman knocked their bike socks off.

County Commissioner Sally Elliott, who has a long history with trails development, said a few words on behalf of the county, and Mayor Williams took a break from playing with the band to give the city’s welcome. We all know what kinds of preconceptions people have about Utah. Having a mountain-biking governor and a rock-musician mayor seemed to take people by surprise.

Good things are happening this week.

On the home front, my neighborhood is beset by beavers. There are several who have moved into a pond downstream of my house. They are busily building dams and causing a lot more flood threat than the high runoff from the river. Several neighbors are attempting to deal with them, but these are battle-hardened beavers with Kevlar hides, night-vision goggles and radar technology. It’s clear who is winning this one, and it’s not the homeowners’ association militia.

The beaver traveling down the river are stopping by for a midnight snack in my yard. They are smart enough to know they aren’t going to dam up the Provo River. But they see nothing wrong with climbing out of the river and dropping a couple of aspen trees across my driveway in the night. So far, they have missed the car and the garage, but I’m not sure if that is intention or just luck. Anyway, I have to start the chain saw to get out of the house in the morning.

My nieces were riding their horses the other day and ran into somebody else on the trail who had been riding up Bench Creek and seen a large bear. So far I haven’t seen bear in the yard, but they are clearly in the neighborhood. It would be nice if they developed a taste for beaver and solved that problem. After a couple of years without a resident moose family, I’ve spotted a couple of cows with calves pretty close to the house, and one neighbor said he was blocked out of his house for about an hour when a moose calf decided to settle in for a nap in front of the door, while the mother stood by giving him the skunk eye if he tried to approach.

The connection to nature is why many of us live here. The power of big storms, the surprise of finding a big tree mowed down by a 30-pound rodent in the night, the rise and fall of the river levels all of it part of a complex synchronized system. I go mountain biking for a lot of reasons, but a key element of the ride is the contact with nature. There are a lot of ways to enjoy the ride, from the physical exertion of the climb to mastering the challenge of a technical descent. The best rides, though, include wildlife, meadows of wildflowers, and observing nature at work. The unexpected surprises are the rides I remember.

The modern world is increasingly disconnected from nature. It’s replaced by electronics and traffic and less need to be out in nature than existed years ago. People living in cities are cut off pretty completely from the natural world. It’s a terrible loss. Life is just better when you are awakened by the goofy noise the sandhill cranes make on their early morning fly-overs. I’m not a birder by any means, but observing a half dozen different birds on an errand as mundane as dragging the trash barrel out to the street is pretty amazing.

Trails make nature accessible. Go get dirty.

Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for nearly 20 years.


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