Tom Clyde: Another one bites the dust |

Tom Clyde: Another one bites the dust

Tom Clyde

I had to drive to Salt Lake this week. That alone soured the mood. The air was thick and gritty. It’s been over 40 years since I lived in Salt Lake, and I don’t recognize a lot of it. The Sugar House neighborhood I grew up in has been completely transformed. My parents’ house has been remodeled to the point that I would not recognize it from a photo. I drove by, and was tempted to get out and look for my handprint in the cement on the driveway, but stayed on task.

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.

On the way down, driving through Francis, I noticed yet another track hoe at work. Another of the old pioneer farmsteads was reduced to rubble. The original farm had been whittled down with the passing of each generation, leaving the farm house, a cool old barn, and the milk station on a smaller parcel. It was a great example of the small-scale dairy operations that defined the Kamas Valley for generations. I’m not sure what’s getting built, but if the storage place across the street is any indication of Francis Town’s planning, it will be a sorry replacement for the irreplaceable piece of heritage scraped off on its behalf.

Another great landmark was lost about two years ago, when some idiot decided to take photos of himself putting out fires — which he wasn’t good at, and ended up burning a piece of local history to the ground. The owners had been demolishing the place little by little through neglect for years, but until the fire, the house, barn and a mid-sized dairy operation were all still there and quite salvageable. It would have made a cool restaurant with some retail around it. Killer views of Timpanogos. I sometimes stop there and watch the sun rise. The replacement for that bit of history is supposed to be a bunch of townhouses. It’s unclear where the elk herd that crosses through there nightly on the way to water will go. So far, they are expressing their opinion of the situation by breaking down a half mile of shiny plastic fence surrounding the development underway across the street.

We’re losing it. We’re losing our history and our uniqueness and replacing it with generic condos that look like stacked shipping containers. When it’s gone, it can’t be replaced. This was never an easy place to live, whether you made a living in the mines in Park City or Coalville (or later the ski bum life in a resort that hadn’t hit the big time) or grubbing out a farming operation at an elevation where it barely works. Four brothers dug the irrigation canal that waters my ranch. They dug it by hand, surveying over 2 miles with a carpenter’s bubble level, in the winter, because they were too busy in the summer. When it was done, they decided there was no future in farming and went to the Alaska gold rush. They’ve been replaced with people who come unhinged if the internet connection is slow.

There’s no going back, and some of the changes are welcome, like a real grocery store and a great hardware store in Kamas. Modern life takes a critical mass of people to support it, and I don’t miss driving to Heber for a jug of milk on Sunday, which was how it worked growing up. The only options are to roll with it, resisting where you can, or pack up and move somewhere that hasn’t been discovered yet. If you’ve heard of it, it’s already too late.

Things are different. I skied Park City Mountain Resort this week and was struck by the garbage strewn around the mountain. If we are specifically marketing to a class of people who fling empty beer cans from the lifts, we need to stop. We don’t want them. I suspect there has always been some of that, and that the resort had people who cleaned up after the swine. Frankly, a lot of us picked up that kind of stuff because it’s our home mountain and we used to be proud of it. There’s nobody picking up these days, and if management doesn’t care, why should the guests?

We swung by Mid-Mountain Lodge for a bathroom stop. It was closed. Not just the restaurant, which would make sense on a very slow mid-week day, but the restrooms were closed, too. There was garbage all over the entrance, some of it melted into the ice, looking like it had been there for weeks. We surmised that they were closing things to give employees a day off, and to save on cleaning costs. We cycled through to the Summit House. It was clear that they were saving on cleaning costs there, too. A friend found the women’s room unpleasant enough that she opted for the woods.

Skiing has kept me sane (relatively) through all the COVID madness. As we go into year three of the plague chaos (masks must be worn between 9:34 and 3:17 on odd-numbered days), I really need something to be normal, to work. I want landmarks to stand and lifts to operate and somebody to pick up the garbage.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.

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