Record editorial: Bring back car-free Sundays on Main Street, this summer and beyond
Last spring, facing the prospect of a summer tourism season hampered by the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellations of events that typically mark the warm months in Park City, officials implemented car-free Sundays on Main Street.
The aim was to provide space for merchants to set up shop outside and to make it easier for patrons to socially distance. As the summer unfolded, the pedestrian-only days were a hit. Parkites and visitors wandered the street, stopping to shop or to grab a meal at an outdoor dining deck. Musicians played live music. While the face masks and distancing made it impossible to forget we were in the middle of a pandemic, the atmosphere was vibrant.
It was clear that turning Main Street into a pedestrian-only zone once a week was a good idea. As a second coronavirus-impacted summer approaches — albeit one that will hopefully represent the end of the health crisis — it remains a good idea. And it would be a good idea in future years, too, after the pandemic is over.
Fortunately, there appears to be strong support for bringing the car-free days back for at least a second season. The board of directors of the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents businesses on and near Main Street, voted unanimously in favor of the idea on Tuesday. It was an unsurprising result but one that illustrates that the pedestrian days were a boon for many restaurants and retailers.
For visitors to Main Street, meanwhile, the action could be even better this year. In addition to the possibility of widespread vaccinations bringing us closer to life as we once knew it, the return of the Park Silly Sunday Market after a one-year hiatus would create an even more festive atmosphere stretching all the way from the market on lower Main Street to the southern parts of the shopping, dining and entertainment strip.
Add in the Tour of Utah bicycling race and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, which could also both return — almost certainly with some form of health measures in place — and you’ve got the makings of a splendid summer on Main Street.
If the Park City Council ultimately approves the car-free Sundays again, the question will then become: What about next year, and beyond?
The pedestrian days are good for business in the historic district, broadly speaking, and are a fun draw for Parkites, day-trippers and vacationers. Like the Silly Market that would be held alongside them this year, the vibe could evolve over time as restaurants and shops learn how to best take advantage of the outdoor spaces, and they could become one of the defining features of summer in Park City.
If that were to happen, Parkites would at least be able to say that one good thing came out of the pandemic.
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