Mile Post 2020: The summer people aren’t leaving
There is an entirely different vibe around town these days. There’s more traffic, more congestion, less patience. Part of it is that endless water line project on Kearns Boulevard. The Empire State Building was built in a year. For some reason, that water main is taking a lifetime. Horns are blaring and left turns are life threatening. But mostly, there are just more people here. The shoulder season, from Labor Day until just before Christmas, used to belong to us. Now there are all these other people here trying to become part of “us.” It’s not all new people. Nobody is going on vacation these days, so we are all at home, getting in each other’s way and on each other’s nerves.
The statistics are not fresh enough to capture the wave of people moving here full-time during the pandemic, but it’s clearly happening. We used to show our environmental purity by denouncing all those huge second homes. They sit there vacant about 80% of the time, heated and cooled to an ideal temperature to protect the exotic hardwood flooring. Oh, the waste. Well, now they are all full, all the time. If you are working from home, home can be anywhere. Like here. So people have moved into their second homes. I confess. I liked them better vacant.
They have enthusiastically embraced the local lifestyle, stripping the inventory out of the local bike shops in July. It’s hard to find a replacement tube. The trails are packed, trailhead parking is a mess and not everybody understands the protocols like yielding to uphill traffic.
In the absence of statistics to prove this trend, we are left with anecdotal evidence. Science is out of favor these days anyway.
So here’s the mother of all anecdotes: I live on a ranch that is not on the way to anywhere. Sometimes I have a hard time finding it. The other day, I was out in the field repairing a gate. A woman was parked on a little-known forest access road adjoining my pasture. Her Irish setter had just exuberantly rolled in a huge cow pie, and she was trying to figure out the alternatives to putting the dog into her Range Rover. The car had Florida plates on it. She muttered something about why didn’t the irresponsible farmer clean up after his cows. Um, because it’s a cow pasture.
Nobody ends up hiking that trail because they were passing through on the way to Tabiona. You don’t drive all the way from Florida, with a new 4×4, unless there is an intention to stick around. She obviously had local help. She had put down roots and had the bur-covered, manure-splattered dog to prove it. The dog refused a dip in a stream and instead bounded into the car, where it shook off vigorously. The plates still said “Florida,” but it’s an authentic Kamas Valley rig now. She’s not going back to Florida.
My house is in a neighborhood that includes mostly small vacation cabins. There are a few big new places, but mostly they are cabins from the 1950s, owned by the same families for all these years. After Labor Day, there might be a little traffic on the weekends, but mid-week it’s just me and the dogs. Not any more. The phone company is in here all the time extending internet connections to places that never even had phones before. There are neighbors lurking in my driveway poaching the wifi all the time.
It’s not just here. I hear it from a relative in Jackson. After Labor Day, it’s supposed to clear out. People who have never owned a car before are trying to parallel park Winnebegos on the town square. Beach towns on the East Coast are packed. New York’s masters of the universe are pulling the levers of power from their homes in the Hamptons these days, and see no reason to go back to the city.
Something like a million residents have left New York City. Every one of them is at Kimball Junction trying to make a left turn.
For years, the local mantra has been that we should welcome the newcomers with open arms. After all, almost all of us were newcomers here once, too. The people who were here before us welcomed us with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but with acceptance, together we maintained a community. That would be the right thing to do. But really, enough is
It’s time for the summer people to go home.
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