Park City wants mysterious hangout in hills addressed
May 22, 2018
Park City officials want a firm under the Talisker corporate umbrella to address in some fashion a large wooden platform, makeshift ladder and other elements found in a well-hidden location in Empire Canyon in early May.
The discovery of the site prompted investigations by the Park City Police Department and the Building Department at City Hall. It was an extraordinarily rare find as officials described a purpose-built platform that showed at least rudimentary craftsmanship and would have required the materials be hauled to the location. The officials also found chairs, wooden planks attached to a tree serving as a makeshift ladder and artificial turf. There was a pit for campfires as well.
Officials said the location was likely a spot for youngsters where they could gather in a location that would be difficult for anyone to see them. The spot is approximately 150 feet east of a gate at the southern end of Daly Avenue that marks one of the entries to Empire Canyon. It is a steep part of the canyon, and the officials found a rope leading to the site meant to assist someone climbing to the platform. Officials at the time of the discovery indicated it appeared the platform was built recently, basing the assessment on the rust on the nails and the lumber weathering. They said the location appeared to be a place where youngsters hung out rather than a place used for living quarters.
Michelle Downard, the deputy building official at City Hall and one of the staffers investigating the location, said on Monday the Building Department did not issue a permit for the construction. It is not clear when the platform and other elements were built.
Downard said City Hall notified the property owner requesting a plan for the location. A plan had not been submitted by midday Monday, but Park City officials are in discussions with the property owner, she said. Downard added it did not appear the property owner was aware of the platform until it was contacted by City Hall after the discovery.
"It's kids just being kids and simply a matter of making sure the safety concerns are addressed," she said.
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Officials are especially worried about the danger of a fire starting at the location. There are broad fears as summer approaches about wildfires after a winter of scant snowfall. Empire Canyon has long been seen as one of the places where a wildfire could cause devastating damage since it is situated between the heavily developed areas of Old Town and Deer Valley. The campfire pit was one of the especially disconcerting parts of the discovery.
Downard, meanwhile, described that the location has prompted a broader discussion at City Hall regarding vandalism in Empire Canyon, such as graffiti found on historic mining structures over the years, unrelated damage to the structures and debris strewn through the canyon.
She said there have been recent talks involving people who use Empire Canyon for recreation purposes as well as the preservation community. The municipal government itself, though, will not be a party to those efforts, she said.
"There have been some community members voice a willingness to spearhead some of the cleanup," Downard said.
The interest in the discovery and the discussions that have unfolded since then are likely a result of the popularity of Empire Canyon as an easily accessible recreation spot. Hikers and bicyclists converge on the canyon in the spring, summer and fall while cross-country skiers and snowshoers head there in the winter. Empire Canyon was an important location during Park City's silver-mining era with relics remaining standing decades after the industry faded.