Summer tourism continues to rise in Kamas
July 2, 2018
In the summer months, the roads in Kamas are often filled with RVs, camper vans and cars. The "Gateway to the Uintas" is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and stock up on bug spray before leaving on an outdoor adventure.
Several business owners in the area have seen a steady increase over the last decade of tourists stopping by in the summer. As they pass through, they spend money in stores around the town, but the crowds also bring concerns to business owners and residents as they flock to the mountains.
Phil Bair, who owns Kamas Foodtown, said that the shop runs non-stop starting Memorial Day week up until just after school starts. On Fridays, the Foodtown's parking lots are packed almost to capacity.
"Businesses are doing well," said Tal Adair, mortgage lender for SecurityNational Mortgage Company and a director on the Kamas Valley Business Association board. "All of the restaurants, pizza parlors, the grocery store and the gas stations certainly love the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day."
Adair said that more people visit the area each year, but he is noticing a shift in the activities they are participating in.
Bair sees people with more "toys than ever before," and they want to go out and use them.
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"They are looking for something to do with all the stuff they have," he said. "They will be pulling a trailer with a side-by-side and another truck with a boat."
Sam Aplanalp, associate broker and co-owner of Discovery Properties in Kamas, said that it is common to see people with brand new ATVs and trucks around town. He said that since the economy is doing well, people have the means to purchase outdoor equipment.
"As people have extra money, they look for fun ways to spend it," he said.
Aplanalp said that more people are discovering Kamas as well, since it has cooler temperatures than the Salt Lake Valley and is close to many mountain trails, reservoirs and lakes. He was born and raised in Kamas and said he has never seen it as busy as it has been the last couple of years.
"The secret is kind of out about how close we are to the Wasatch front," he said.
He said that the Kamas Foodtown is a good measure of that growth. Since being built in the 1990s, it has undergone multiple expansions and is now almost triple the size of the original store. There are more restaurants and businesses in the town as well. Adair said that it is not only people from Utah visiting either. More and more, out-of-state visitors are stopping by.
"You'll see license plates from all over," he said. "I think that there is more of a variety of people coming."
Adair and Aplanalp, along with many other business owners, welcome the growth. But they are also concerned about what it could mean for the region. Part of the reason that the Kamas Valley Business Association was created was to come up with ways to sustainably grow the economy in the area rather than let it climb without plans.
One of Adair's major concerns is the impact that tourism can have on the environment, especially when visitors leave trash or do not treat the land with respect.
Aplanalp worries about wildfires as thousands of people camp in and around the Uinta mountains each summer. He also said that accidents in the backcountry are becoming more common. Medical helicopters can frequently be seen flying over and, sometimes, landing in Kamas. They carry people who rolled an ATV or got lost in the mountains for several days.
"Some people might not be as mountain savvy and therefore, we might have more problems with people getting lost or injured," he said.
Adair, Aplanalp and Bair recognize the importance of the mountains and the surrounding terrain for Kamas businesses. They are happy to see the spike in visitation, but also want to keep Kamas the quiet mountain town they love.
"We are proud of what we have to offer," Aplanalp said. "We'll continue to welcome the visitors for the weekend, and are happy to wave goodbye on Monday morning."