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Watchdogs worry about big resort plans

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

If the idea to link the Park City area mountain resorts with those in the Cottonwood canyons gains momentum, Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth, it seems, has lots of studying to do.

Faced with an ambitious plan promoted by the ski industry, the development watchdog’s leader says he has not learned much about the idea yet. Instead, John Tuerff, the president of the board of directors of the group, often called by its acronym, CARG, says he wants to hear more about the possibilities.

"I think it’s an idea that requires a great deal of study," Tuerff says, unable to discuss details and adding, "I don’t want to jump the gun. I don’t want to speak about something I don’t know what the proposal is."

CARG has been involved in the biggest growth debates in the area since the 1990s. It was an especially significant player in the mid-1990s, when its leader at the time, Dana Williams, who is now Park City’s mayor, led the opposition to what became Empire Pass, a development on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort.

Now, the group has been monitoring projects at The Canyons and Kimball Junction and transit studies in the area, among other advocacy roles. But Tuerff says the group has not started a detailed review of the potential of a Park City-Cottonwood canyons connection.

He talks about the idea in vague terms, saying he worries about "unintended impacts" and whether Park City would lose what he describes as its uniqueness if the mountain resorts are connected. He says that the idea is "somewhat nebulous," making it difficult to provide a response.

"What’s most worrisome for CARG as an organization is we kill the goose that laid the golden egg," Tuerff says.

He expects to monitor the discussions as they unfold.

In mid-October, it was publicized that leaders in the ski industry in early November plan to hold a summit to talk about the potential of linking the three Park City mountain resorts with the four in the Cottonwood canyons.

That has long been an idea by tourism promoters, who see the elusive arrangement, frequently called an ‘interconnect,’ as a method to make Utah more competitive with other skiing destinations. They say that the ability to easily travel between seven resorts would be unique in North America and further boost Utah’s growing ski industry.

Lots of details have not been publicized but discussions could involve the possibility of tunnels and roads. If that is the case, the ideas would likely mobilize environmental groups.

Meanwhile, people who live in Park City, who are frequently worried about the potential of more traffic, would be leery of plans that would deliver more drivers into the city. Park City Engineer Eric DeHaan has speculated that there are at least two tunnel routes between Park City and the Cottonwoods, with the mouths on the Park City side being at S.R. 224 near Hotel Park City or on the southern end of Old Town.

Save Our Canyons, an advocacy group that usually monitors issues outside of Summit County, is more worried than CARG.

"We don’t necessarily want the Wasatch identified as a megaplex," says Lisa Smith, the executive director of Save Our Canyons.

She worries that the plans would endanger wildlife, would threaten drinking-water sources and construction would disrupt the mountains.

"It’s a very sad story to tell," she says.


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