Amy Roberts: Somebody, anybody, everybody — needs to fix this
Decades ago, radio and television host Charles Osgood penned a poem about responsibility. Most of us are familiar with it. The condensed version goes like this:
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
This parable has been on a continuous loop in Park City for years. We all know something needs to be done to protect the quality of life for the locals. We’ve had it with the disastrous tourist infiltration, and we’re willing to try everything and anything in the name of sanity and making a left turn. But nothing gets done. In fact, the number of visitors and the problems just continue to grow.
While the week between Christmas and New Year’s is always among the worst, every year we convince ourselves that year was the breaking point — as bad and as busy as it can get. And roughly 360 days later, Rob Katz let’s out an epically devious laugh and instructs someone to hold his beer. Vail Resorts sold over 2.1 million Epic Passes this season — a 42% increase from last year — and this past week it felt like every single one of those extra 900,000 pass holders was in Park City.
Lift lines were hours long. Buses overflowed. Grocery store shelves were empty. Traffic was akin to rush hour in L.A. And we’re all going to test positive for omicron now. We need to cap the number of tourists in town at once.
Limiting the number of visitors can be done. Before the pandemic took hold in 2020, the Belgian city of Bruges was overrun by vacationers — in fact they outnumbered locals by three to one. At the time, the city’s mayor said, “We have to control the influx more if we don’t want it to become a complete Disneyland here.” Steps were taken to restrict the number of cruise ships that could dock each day, and cruise companies were required to dock during the weekdays instead of weekends. The city’s tourism board also ended its advertising campaigns that encouraged day trippers from nearby cities.
In the Seychelles, an island nation dependent on tourism, they’ve capped the number of visitors to protect the environment and have restricted large hotel developments, opting instead to issue building permits to smaller, locally owned properties.
Barcelona’s former mayor also restricted tourism numbers, specifically to improve the quality of life for residents. The famed La Boqueria market on La Rambla now limits group sizes, Gaudi’s Park Guell started charging tourists admission and regulated their numbers, and there are revolving development freezes throughout the city.
The tiny Pacific Island of Palau requires every visitor to sign and adhere to the Palau Pledge, which was written by local schoolchildren as a reminder that tourism impacts the next generation. The pledge is a vow to be an ecologically and culturally responsible visitor.
If these tourism-dependent areas can do it, so can we. We can start with traffic. The city and county could work together to require a permit for in-town driving. A move like this would require the resorts to operate or fund a bus system from the airport to Park City. Much like we did during the Olympics and still do on a small scale in Old Town during large event weekends, only locals would be eligible for a permit allowing them to drive into town, along with select commuting employees. This could first be piloted during peak times — Christmas, Sundance, Presidents Day weekend, and Fourth of July to start — and expanded if successful.
Of course there will be pushback and unintended consequences — every potential solution will come with a million “what aboutisms” that are impossible to account for. But we have to start somewhere. Someone has to do something.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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