Park City finds mysterious platform, makeshift ladder, fire pit in hills
Park City officials on Tuesday found a mysterious, purpose-built large wooden platform and campfire pit in a well-masked location in the hills just south of Old Town, a discovery the authorities say is likely a gathering spot for youngsters.
Park City youths have for years escaped into the hills for various reasons, but it is extraordinarily rare to find a site like the one the police reported. Images from the location provided by the Police Department show a platform that appears to have required at least rudimentary craftsmanship, chairs, wooden planks attached to a tree serving as a makeshift ladder and artificial turf. There is also a campfire pit.
Phil Kirk, a police captain, said an officer on patrol midday on Monday saw bicycles parked close to a gate at the southern end of Daly Avenue, a popular Empire Canyon access point for hikers and bicyclists. A teen boy at that time told the officer he was hanging out with friends, Kirk said. The police noticed a hammock tied to trees while talking to the boy.
The Police Department contacted the Building Department at City Hall about the activity. Building Department officials on Tuesday discovered the platform and the fire pit. Kirk said the location is approximately 150 feet east of the gate. The terrain at the location is steep. A rope leading to the site designed to assist someone climbing to the platform and campfire pit was also found.
“They spent considerable time and effort to construct this thing,” Kirk said, describing the setup as “almost like a clubhouse.”
He said the wooden planks comprising the platform are secured to the ground with an additional layer of what Kirk described as flooring.
“We were pretty surprised by it,” Kirk said, adding, “It’s kind of a kids hangout, or something like that. They’ve gone to great lengths to build this.”
He said it does not appear anyone used the location for living purposes. The Police Department occasionally receives reports of homeless people living in campsites in the terrain surrounding Park City.
The discovery is likely disconcerting since someone was able to build a platform like the one found without anyone alerting the authorities. There is also likely a concern about the fire pit. Emergency officials have long said there is a danger of an illicit campfire starting a wildfire in Park City. The Empire Canyon location of the discovery is an especially worrisome spot since it is heavily wooded and so close to tightly packed Old Town as well as just downhill from Deer Valley.
City Hall said a firm under the Talisker corporate umbrella owns the land. Michelle Downard, the deputy chief building official for the municipal government, said City Hall wants the structure removed. She said there is concern about the stability and wildfire danger.
Downard said it appears the platform was built recently, perhaps this spring. She based the assessment on the amount of rust on the nails and the lumber weathering. Downard said it is surprising officials did not learn of the location earlier since someone needed to haul materials to the spot and then build the platform.
City Hall encourages people to report unusual discoveries in the hills. The Police Department is reachable at 615-5500.
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Park City recently detailed the efforts to fill a range of vacant municipal posts in 2018 and 2019 as officials described the challenges City Hall has encountered in its hiring amid a hot economy.