Teri Orr: Dear James, I read your letter to the editor | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: Dear James, I read your letter to the editor

Teri Orr

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

Dear James,

I read your letter to the editor in Wednesday’s edition of this paper, and I wonder if your last name (Smith) is indicative of your ancestors, who might have come this way back in 1847 and – perhaps – found their way thru East Canyon to Salt Lake City. That may explain the entitlement/last settler mentality expressed in your letter, signed from Jeremy Ranch. Or perhaps you too, at some time, moved here from someplace outside of Park City. Which, to be specific, Jeremy Ranch is outside of… That housing development with a golf course and trails and now an elementary school… There is a gas station/convenience store at the edge of a roundabout, and across the road some factory outlet stores and a market. It is not a town, but rather an unincorporated part of the county.

You express displeasure with folks from all kinds of states you abbreviate with a long string two letters – CA, NY, XX, etc. And you assume some kind of moral authority over who deserves to live where and how they should behave. Which confused me…

I first moved at age 17, from south of San Francisco where I grew up to the north shore of Lake Tahoe. It was the quiet side. No gambling really, except right at the Nevada state line at the Cal-Neva club where Sinatra and some rumored Mafia guys hung out… It was beautiful there. There weren’t any formal trails except a few inside the state park on the west side of the lake next to the estates that Mark Zuckerberg recently purchased.

When I moved to Park City in 1979, there were grassy paths on vacant hills in Old Town and ski runs that became paths in the summer. Kids rode plain old bikes. And I remember most of us who moved here were pretty friendly and made new friends easily because almost all came from someplace else.

Sure, Art who owned the hardware store on Main Street was notoriously grumpy to everyone at first. Howard Coleman and his wife were the only two black people in Park City. They ended up here after World War II, and he was the postmaster for decades at the only post office in town that still operates on Main Street. Within my first three months, they welcomed me one beautiful day to enjoy lemonade and Mrs. Coleman’s fresh baked cookies with them on their porch.

The number of Viet Nam veterans who found their way to Park City was an interesting/odd phenomenon. Service men and women who liked to ski thought coming to these mountains would be a great place for a second chance. There was nothing at the freeway junction except a gas station for travelers off I-80. There was lots of land owned by the Swaner family, hundreds of acres of it, that sat vacant. There was no talk of preserving those lands then, though there was plenty of talk about their possibility of being developed. Across the highway, where eventually a golf course sprung up, there were some track homes. The road, if you knew how to find it, could take you over to Morgan in good weather. The land was largely agricultural everywhere.

In the summer, when the ski resorts closed, there were trails folks mostly walked on. Hiking wasn’t really part of the language. Most folks who were, say, sweater sellers or lifties or ski instructors had little to do here in summer, so they mostly took off to the desert and ran rivers. There were many shops which put up signs in May that said, “See you in November.” Summers passed in a very, very, very, quiet fashion. It was luxurious even.

Now, I don’t mean to turn back the clock for nostalgia’s sake. Time marches on, and great things happened including some smart growth and then the Olympics and a vibrant arts and culture climate- relative to the size of the town. The schools grew beyond the city limits, and so too grew our cultural horizons. Fancy hotels popped up, and before you knew it, lots of fine dining replaced the pickled eggs in the jar on the back shelf of The Cozy bar.

We bonded as a community to create a land moat around town, and bit by bit, saved pieces from development. But those pieces could have trails, and no one ever once said there should be discrimination to determine who was worthy to ride on them. No passport was required. No proof of residency status. We created a pretty magical place together with all flavors of churches and temples not seen in much of the rest of this state. And we celebrated national holidays, sure. But Miner’s Day was ours – the official end to summer and the beginning of the school year. And those summer holiday rugby games were legendary.

I share all this with you, because maybe if you have been here all these years too, you forgot our humble beginnings. Or maybe you moved here at some point in the last 45 years and don’t fully know the modern history of how we came to be. The trails folks ride on today were hard won with votes and lobbying, extractions from developers, and fundraising and bonds and voting and urging ski resorts to properly maintain their runs and keep them open of the public in the summers.

During COVID lots of folks “discovered” leaving big cities and finding towns not unlike ours all across the country. There are terrific articles about this from the New York Times to the Washington Post to a number Hearst papers. Our population has grown and is still growing, and we are not without growing pains for it. Personally, I am most offended by the increasing number of folks who leave shopping carts akimbo in parking lots. But I digress…

When I go on trails around town and outside city limits, it is to just stroll these days. I have not been run into or run over or flipped off. Nor have I felt the need to yell at anyone. Perhaps we travel on different trails. Or perhaps we see them thru different lenses. I just know when I watch CNN at night and witness the unraveling of lies told by mostly men and maybe a Supreme Court Justice’s wife, I get really, really, angry about that. And when I see the bombed-out buildings in Ukraine and the faces of people searching for family members in the rubble of buildings, I wonder more about the state of man than the states of where bike riders on an idyllic trail in our county came from. There are so many real problems in the world, Mr. Smith. Maybe you could shift your focus from writing exclusionary letters to the paper and, instead, work on those any day, including a Sunday inside the metaphorical boundaries of our Park….

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