Through her love of gardening, and at the Chamber of Commerce, Sue McJames strives to cultivate a respect of earth
Steward of the Earth
Look up “garden” in the dictionary, and the definition ranges from a plot of ground cultivated for herbs, fruit, flowers or vegetables to a recreation area or park. To one person, the word “garden” invokes colorful images of bright flowers spilling, one on top of the other — like a firework display of flowers — cheerful daisies next to tall, stately purple irises above fragrant, pink petunias. For another, a garden might be a more modern, refined mix of a shady tree, tall ornamental grasses and a water sculpture around a sitting area. And yet another person envisions a garden from which she can harvest fresh vegetables: dark red beets, flavorful tomatoes, green beans so fresh you can’t help but eat a few as you pick them.
For Sue McJames, gardens are as much a part of her heritage as a path to the future. President of the Park City Garden Club, McJames began dabbling in gardening as a child growing up in Evanston, Illinois. As a young girl, she helped her mother tend to the family’s flower and vegetable gardens. Passionate about gardens, her mother also cared for a Shakespeare garden — one that highlighted flowers and plants specific to the Shakespearean era — on Northwestern University’s campus with her local garden club. McJames’ mother inherited her love of gardening from her mother, who cultivated a passion for the fascinating and varied world of orchids.
“Gardening has always been a hobby of mine,” says McJames, who credits her mother and grandmother for instilling the love of gardening in her. She appreciates the calm she finds when she digs in the dirt, the satisfaction that comes with nurturing plants from seed and harvesting food, and the opportunity to beautify her home, her town, her community and the world.
McJames has been a member of the Park City Garden Club, off and on, since it originated 30 years ago. Part social, part educational, the garden club gives members an opportunity to: share their passion for gardening with like-minded souls (complete with dirt under their fingernails), learn about all facets of gardening (including the role of insects in our ecosystem, for example), inspire and get inspired by others, and give back to the community (each member pledges to volunteer garden-related community service each year). As president, McJames hopes to help the garden club strengthen its focus on its mission: to be caretakers of the earth’s natural resources.
For McJames, that responsibility starts here, in the mountains. She fell in love with these mountains as a girl, when her family traveled here for ski vacations at Alta. The passion she found for skiing and the mountains grew so deep she chose University of Utah for college and, not long afterwards, Park City as her home, where she raised her daughter and son. It’s been more than 30 years since McJames made Utah her home, and during it all, she has worked at the ski resorts: first, as an instructor, and finally, in human resources and summer operations.
McJames left the ski resort about a year ago to work with the Park City Chamber of Commerce. Ask her about her career change though, and she’ll tell you it is not only reflected by where she earns a paycheck. “I’ve adopted being a better steward of the earth as my personal mission, my second career.” A longtime supporter of recycling, McJames has always been respectful of the earth, but as global temperatures rise and its effects — and other human impacts — become more evident, she feels a greater urgency and a readiness to inspire others to also care for and preserve the world’s natural resources before it’s too late. Global warming affects all of us, eventually, but in Park City, the mountains stand as a daily reminder of natural resources imperiled by climate change. According to the USGS website, mountain ecosystems in the Western United States and northern Rockies are particularly sensitive to climate change, with the higher elevations experiencing three times the average temperature increase recorded globally — a phenomenon that directly threatens the ski industry.
McJames wants to ensure that skiing — the sport that brought her to, and nourished her love for, the mountains, the sport that she, in turn, passed on to her children — has a future for generations to come.