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Sunday in the Park

I’ve come to think of it as my own. Which is dangerous. Not only my own, mind you, but all of ours. I think of that lovely saying attributed to Chief Seattle — until it turned out there was no such chief — that asked so eloquently how you could own the sky, the land. They belong to us all. And you stop and think the very concept of someone owning any land is ludicrous until you remember how precious the land that you own, or your family owns, is to you.

In May, when the house next door was bulldozed, the house that had sold just weeks before and had only been visited maybe twice a year, the neighborhood was shocked. We knew the sale had meant a remodel was ahead and, quite frankly, we looked forward to that. The tired little tract house from the ’70s had been neglected for so long. But when we came home and discovered the structure altogether gone, it was a shock.

Rumors flew about the size that was proposed on the former footprint of 1,400 square feet. It may double and then some. And we fretted. The builder, hired by the out-of-state folks who plan to build and sell, told us about the plans. It would be taller, to the dismay of those neighbors who had it in their line of sight, and longer/deeper, to the dismay of those of us who will lose some of the view we called our own.

This week, the discussion centered on building a permanent fence as the first part of the project. The concerned builder is in the middle of this pickle sandwich between out-of-the-area owners and local vocal neighbors. To a person, we oppose the whole fence idea. To me, it feels like a personal affront. About four years ago I convinced the former owners to let me pay to have their fence removed that separated our lots. I have grown accustomed now to having kids run free back there where yard after yard now is open. I have been witness to major soccer games and teenage gatherings and adventures in the trees where the younger kids decide, with great authority, who gets to be the good guy or the bad guy on any given day.

In the months that the project has stalled, the grass has grown tall and you can see the path where the wildlife migrate. Admittedly this isn’t Yellowstone but there are deer and fox and an occasional moose that meander over from somewhere around McLeod Creek and end up in my yard. The cats, dogs, skunks, squirrels and really noisy raccoons stay mostly out of sight. I put out corn and I can’t keep the birdseed filled up this time of year.

I have grown accustomed to the open space. And though my rational brain knows it is not so, I have come to think of that openness as mine. Mine, that I am willing to share with all the other folks who love that view. As neighbors, we lament now about the missed opportunity to have bought the house, collectively, and created open space of our own. But truth be told, none of us had the resources, even to pool, to make such a thing happen.

This week I attended the open house put on by the City and attended by the landowners, the Sweeney family, about the proposed project where Creole Gulch backs up and into Treasure Mountain. A place where the trails provided by the family to the community twenty five years ago in exchange for higher density have been used and loved by now two generations of Parkites and thousands of visitors. The wildlife runs free up there, and from so very many vantage points in town that open space has come to feel personal. Something we feel entitled to have preserved.

But just like my dilemma with the house next door, it is someone else’s private property entitled to certain rights. And as we enter into complex negotiations about building sizes and heights and impacts upon the neighborhood and the town, we must realize unless we collectively can find the funds to buy the land, we are not entitled to demand what private landowners can do with their property and the rights they already hold. We can suggest and nudge and even whine a little but, in the end, we can only hope that consideration is given to the sense of community that has no price per square foot. I will sit out back on my porch currently open to the filtered but expanded view of The Canyons and think about how I hate the cliché that "good fences make good neighbors" on this very Sunday in the Park …

Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She is a former editor of The Park Record.


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