Summer tourism big money to east side of county
July 3, 2012
When it comes to tourism, it’s the bread to Park City’s butter. But what about the rest of the county? City officials and business leaders from Kamas to Coalville agree: it’s downright important to their local economies.
"There is all sorts of tourism," said Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt, "whether that it is fishing, boating, water skiing, snowmobiling or horseback riding. There is definitely tourism here, and it’s a benefit to our community."
While Park City reaps the benefits of the winter months with its three resorts and special events such as Sundance, the small towns dotting reservoirs and state parks also rely on incoming visitors, especially during the summer. Whether it’s a pit stop at a nearby grocery store or a scenic drive to an out-of-the-way restaurant, visitors are patronizing East Side businesses.
Sean Wharton, owner of Kamas’s Gateway Grill, has dabbled in business ventures on both sides of the county. His grill sits along Kamas Main Street, one of the last businesses on the route to popular Utah destinations such as Mirror Lake. In his 15 years running the business, he’s realized the impact summer activities are, and continue to be, a major source of revenue.
"Tourism certainly impacts us at the grill," he said. "We can double, if not more, our sales in summer months. But I’d say we’re more impacted by summer tourism than winter tourism."
Wharton has also run small restaurants and cafes in some of Park City’s resorts, including the Gondola Grill at Deer Valley Resort, and the Dreamscape and Tombstone Grills at Canyons Resort.
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He’s even found a way to turn typically seasonal jobs into year-round positions.
"What’s really interesting is that because the East Side of the county is tourism-based in summer and the west in the winter, some of my staff follows me from season to season. When it’s slow in Kamas over the winter, it’s busy in Park City. I’m able to keep people employed year round."
Near Coalville, the Echo Reservoir alone in 2010 recorded 126,347 visitors, an 8.9 percent increase from the year before, according to numbers collected by the Utah Office ot Tourism. And though tourism may not make up as big of a piece of the pie in places such as Kamas and Coalville, it is an economic force, Schmidt said.
"During the summertime, it is a huge piece of the economic puzzle," he said. "It’s not the entire puzzle, but it does become a large piece."
" Visitors frequent the local businesses when they come up to camp or hike," he added. "and that’s a key ingredient."
The Uinta Mountains serve as a major draw to visitors from along the Wasatch Front, with popular hiking trails and activities available nearby. In a recent USA Today article, among the five best hiking trails in Summit County, four were nearby Kamas, Francis and other, more rural areas of the county, including the 1.20 mile-long Bald Mountain Trail, the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail that stretches from Park City to the Echo Reservoir, the Beaver Creek Trail in the western Uinta Mountains and the 4.6-mile-long Loft Lake Trail with views of Reids Peak and Bald Mountain.
According to the Utah Office of Tourism, more than half of the land in Summit County is owned by the federal or state government. The U.S. Forest Service owns 516,793 acres of land in the county, and Utah State Parks and Recreation owns another 768 acres.
"The impact of tourism (in that area) is getting greater all the time," said Utah Office of Tourism Managing Director Leigh von der Esch. "The fishing product of Utah is getting more popular, as is wildlife viewing and mountain biking. "Park City is like a gateway city to these national parks, just as Moab and Springville are gateways."
This year, the Utah Office of Tourism began including recreational summer activities in Northern Utah along with their red rock advertisements in markets such as Las Vegas, Portland and Los Angeles.
"I think tourism is growing," Esch said. "That’s why we’re focusing on it more.
On top of the typical 30-second television spots in nearby markets that promote Red Rock Country, the tourism office added 15-second spots focusing Northern Utah activities.
"We’ve got these phenomenal water elements in addition to the alpine setting already there," she said. "Particularly in year like this, we will see more visitation, an attraction to getting out of heat and enjoying the mountains."
"We made a conscious decision in our office not to paint ourselves into corner as only having red rock for summer vacationers," Esch added. "Red rocks are an iconic draw, but in year like this, I believe more people will look for cooler spots like we have in Northern Utah."