Best place in the universe
The excitement over Park City being named the Best Place to Live by Outside magazine was pushed aside by the Rockport fire. But it happened, and Park City is now so undeniably cool that some segments of local society are thinking of moving someplace else before the unwashed start coming.
The Outside article seemed a bit off, or at least didn’t hit the points that I would have hit when discussing why the Park City area is a great place to live. One of the stranger statements in the article was this: "Less than a third of the town’s population has their primary residence within city limits." Huh? Less than a third of the people who live here live there? That’s both impossible and absolutely true. But it reads like Yogi Berra’s comment that someplace was so crowded that nobody every goes there anymore. The Outside writer was just including Snyderville as part of Park City. Apparently he didn’t know they have a different ZIP code.
The runner-up, Greenville, S.C., has 15 miles of trails within 4 miles of downtown. Well, you don’t say. Fifteen whole miles.
The rest of the midsized towns and some big cities (San Diego, Boston and Chicago in the same list as Park City and Carbondale?) are all nice places. I’ve visited a number of them through the years. But Park City is a radically different sort of place. It’s a purpose-built, active-lifestyle theme park in a lot of ways. Assisted living for the hyperactive. There aren’t many people here by happenstance, and those who chose to move here made that decision with a lot of deliberation and analysis, for the most part. It’s hard to imagine that same level of passion for, say, Oklahoma City.
One significant measure of awesomeness they missed was the response to the Rockport fire, which had not happened when they did their survey. But if you are looking at the measure of a community as a place to live, watching the neighbors in Wanship take care of each other during a terrible crisis gives you hope for humanity in general. The fire response was professional and, in the end, the vast majority of houses were saved. It’s going to take a long time for the canyon to grow back to the beautiful alpine landscape it was. But nobody died, nobody was seriously hurt, and the property loss was surprisingly low.
There were a couple of unusual things that came out of the fire story. A consortium of insurance companies, looking at the flames moving toward rows of multimillion-dollar houses in Promontory, decided to bring in their own private firefighters to augment the protection effort on that neighborhood. I guess it makes sense. Spending $50,000 on extra firefighters is a lot less expensive to the insurance company than rebuilding even one giant house. I’d never heard of that before. The Pinkertons have firemen, too? The same thing happened with the fire in Hailey-Ketchum. And with resources stretched to the limit, who’s going to complain?
The other sidebar story from the fire that caught my attention was the guy who was arrested for running the barricades not once, but twice. Apparently this Promontory resident didn’t think that the evacuation order applied to him. He thought that he was special and should be able to cross through the active fire zone to access his house. Perhaps he is made of asbestos. He ran through the barricades one day and the sheriff’s office was too busy dealing with the overall situation to worry about him. But when he drove over the traffic cones the next day, they arrested him, and he got his mug shot in the paper and on TV. I’m sure that will make the holiday newsletter.
With all that going on, the last thing the first responders needed was to have somebody who had been safely evacuated suddenly be in need of a rescue if the fire shifted direction. I don’t know if any formal charges have been filed against him. If there isn’t a crime known as "felony a-hole," there should be. If charges are filed, I want to be on that jury.
You really have to give credit to the people who managed the fire. From all appearances, the teamwork among several fire agencies was well coordinated. The county marshaled its resources very well, from Cats moved from the landfill to counting primary-election ballots right in the thick of it. They all got it right. The people on the front line many of whom have already moved to some other fire others volunteers from North and South Summit fire districts, and full-time guys from PCFD really deserve our respect and gratitude.
This is the most awesome place to live, and not for any of the reasons Outside looked at.
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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