Abandoning Accord would be an unpardonable mistake
When hiking or skiing among the wildflower-filled meadows and snow-filled bowls of the central Wasatch Mountains it is easy to believe that civilization is hundreds of miles away. But zoom out on Google maps and those massive granite cliffs and aspen-lined canyons shrink into a slender swath of green squeezed between bulging metropolises to the east and west.
From a satellite’s perspective, the mountains no longer seem so immovable, in fact, they look unbearably vulnerable. The life-sustaining watersheds, iconic moose and eagle hideouts and our favorite private playgrounds are suddenly seen for what they are: endangered.
Enter Mountain Accord, an ambitious multiagency study aimed at both preserving the wild landscape of the Central Wasatch and maximizing its potential. The group, which includes representatives from Salt Lake City, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Sandy, Park City, Alta, Summit, Wasatch and Salt Lake counties, Utah, the U.S. Forest Service and the Utah Transit Authority, among others, has been meeting for two years and recently released a rough blueprint containing proposals for enhancing recreation, protecting the environment and reducing traffic pressures.
But now that they are talking about specifics it is apparent that while the goal — to protect the mountains that provide a natural buffer zone between the Salt Lake Valley and Park City — may be universal, opinions about how to achieve it are far from unanimous.
In particular, the debate about a potential light rail and/or tunnel connection between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons and Park City boiled over at a public meeting in Park City on Tuesday. the end of the week, some had begun to question whether Park City and Summit County should abandon the effort altogether with naysayers claiming the Accord’s motives have been hijacked by Salt Lake Valley interests and are detrimental to Park City. They may be right, but if that is the case it is more important than ever not to abandon the process.
The scope of the Mountain Accord is no more ambitious and controversial than Utah’s original bid to host the Winter Olympics, an expensive, complicated, years-long planning effort requiring entities that often found themselves in competition to work together.
The potential to craft long-range solutions to the challenges facing our shared boundary with the Salt Lake Valley is even more valuable than hosting a two-week sporting event. The alternative, to walk away, would be to forgo having any say in the Salt Lake side’s resort-expansion and transportation-connection plans.
Instead of debating whether or not to put more energy and money into the Mountain Accord we should continue to marshal our smartest, most imaginative planners, cram into crowded public hearings, flood our leaders’ inboxes with input and dedicate ourselves to working with our neighbors to the west and south. If successful our generation’s legacy will be a sustainable future for the Wasatch Mountains.
For more information about the Mountain Accord Initiative go to: mountainaccord.com and then contact your city, county and state elected officials to share your input on the proposed plans.
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A reader says the solution to Park City’s traffic woes is in the grasp of employers like Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company.