Park City prepares to create ‘Dogs Ears’ outside library
Officials support efforts to permanently preserve Old Town land
Park City leaders have reaffirmed their desire to protect the field outside the Park City Library from development, crafting terms that will ensure nothing is built there permanently but allowing temporary uses beyond recreation.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council at a recent meeting continued the discussions about the field and asked that a document be drafted outlining the terms. The document is known as a preservation easement. A third party would be tapped to enforce the easement. A City Council straw poll at the recent meeting showed there was unanimous support for a preservation easement. The elected officials, though, did not cast a formal vote. That is expected in coming months.
The straw poll, though, was a victory for a movement that has pressed City Hall to protect the field outside the library. A group known as Save the Library Field has lobbied officials to guard against the development of the greenspace. The group sees the field as an attractive place in densely packed Old Town where people can hang out, play catch or run their dogs. The group says it is the only field in Old Town that is not programmed with activities. The field now serves as an off-leash area.
Park City Manager Diane Foster at the recent meeting labeled the library field “Dogs Ears.” It was a reference to the debate about Bears Ears National Monument, a protected area in Southern Utah created in the final weeks of the administration of President Obama.
City Hall will pursue a preservation easement that encompasses the field but not the slope at the southern end of the greenspace closest to the Park City Library. It would disallow permanent structures but allow temporary ones as well as temporary programming approved through municipal processes. It would also allow special events approved through City Hall processes. The preservation easement, meanwhile, will outline a process to consider amenities like benches on the perimeter of the protected land.
The allowances for temporary structures, temporary programming and special events will be critical points in a preservation easement. The Sundance Film Festival, as an example, traditionally uses a small portion of the field as part of the overall festival setup of the screening room at the Santy Auditorium.
“We are extremely pleased that the Council has recognized the Library Field as an integral part of Park City’s future…forever! The Library Field, first as the old high school football field, and always as a community common/recreation area, will live on to enrich this town as it always has…as a field of grass!” Ed Parigian, the leader of Save the Library Field, said in an email message after the recent City Council meeting.
The elected officials at the recent meeting heard from supporters of the field and City Hall’s open space panel. Steve Joyce, the Park City Planning Commission representative on the Citizens Open Space Advisory Committee, said the details of a preservation easement need to be finalized. He said flexibility is important.
“The true value there is the open field,” Joyce said.
The City Council did not hold a lengthy discussion about the details of an eventual preservation easement and will likely address the details at a later meeting. Becca Gerber, a member of the City Council, though, said she wanted a clause that would allow watering.
The discussions about permanently protecting the field date to mid-2015 and were spurred by a City Hall-organized design studio focused on the lower Park Avenue corridor. The design studio produced concepts involving housing development on the field. Park City officials said there was no intention of developing the land, but the concepts left many in the neighborhood dismayed nonetheless. The movement to preserve the field as open space launched shortly afterward.
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The Park City Council field is scheduled to appear together next week for the first time, gathering for a candidate forum that will be held as the primary election nears but also at a time when it seems the campaign itself has had difficulty seizing the attention of voters.