Park City mayoral candidates address wildfire danger, other environmental issues |

Park City mayoral candidates address wildfire danger, other environmental issues

Election forum centers on topics many see as key to the long-term future of community

The Marsac Building.
Park Record file photo

The two Park City mayoral contenders on Thursday evening briefly addressed the closely related issues of drought and the threat of wildfires, offering broad comments about the subject during a forum that was centered on environmental issues.

A group called the Citizens’ Climate Lobby organized the forum, which was held online, and the questions to the incumbent mayor, Andy Beerman, and his challenger, Park City Councilor Nann Worel, keyed on topics that many see as crucial to the long-term future of the community.

Both Beerman and Worel see themselves as figures who support broad steps to combat climate change, something that is included in the City Hall work plan. There is concern at City Hall and elsewhere in Park City that a changing climate could someday threaten the ski industry that drives the local economy. The event, meanwhile, was held two months after the Parleys Canyon Fire tore through 500-plus acres off Interstate 80 close to the Snyderville Basin and forced evacuations in several Basin neighborhoods, a blaze that further spotlighted the wildfire danger to Park City.

In response to a question about drought and the risk of wildfires, Beerman and Worel offered limited comments. The responses were among the highlights of the event, however, as the two addressed a topic that has not been regularly addressed over the years in City Hall campaigns.

Beerman said it appears drought has become persistent and “increasingly problematic.” His thinking is to “approach every day like it’s a drought,” the mayor said. He said conservation measures are a starting point and explained that City Hall rules could be modified in support of drought-resistant landscaping.

Worel told the online audience she wants to hold an evacuation drill in the community that would help prepare for the possibility of a wildfire forcing people out of Park City. She said Park City needs “to make sure people know what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Beerman continued that Park City could be more aggressive in reducing wildfire fuels, something that typically entails the removal of vegetation that could be especially problematic in the event of a blaze. Worel added that the emergency response to the Parleys Canyon Fire went well but said a lesson that was learned during the emergency was the need to distribute information to people who are not English speakers.

The two also addressed issues related to the environmental impact of the tourism industry. City Hall wrestles with the topic, which essentially covers the totality of the overriding industry in the community.

The mayor acknowledged visitors to Park City may or may not share the same values of the community and noted he operated an eco-friendly hotel. He said a focus on transit, including buses powered by electricity, is a step.

Worel said City Hall needs to work with others since the municipal government cannot solve the issue on its own. She said the Sundance Film Festival is a good partner on environmental issues.

City Hall’s wide-ranging environmental programs, covered under the broad ideal of sustainability, have garnered strong support over the years from a population that considers itself to be environmentally friendly. Environmental topics are usually not fractious issues during City Hall campaigns as candidates over the years have generally agreed with their importance.

The three Park City Council candidates also appeared at the event on Thursday. Some highlights included:

• Jeremy Rubell acknowledging environmental programs are expensive and the costs must be clear.

• incumbent City Councilor Tim Henney telling the audience there are those in the community who question climate change, known sometimes as climate deniers.

• Tana Toly desiring there be a focus on green initiatives for businesses.

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