August 2, 2016
It seemed a bit odd to many of us when the Utah Office of Tourism launched a $12M ad campaign to attract people to Utah's "Mighty Five" national parks. This was done at a time when park attendance was already soaring and the National Park maintenance backlog was $11B (not million) and growing. The campaign was a tremendous success and the count of visitors rose even faster.
Last May, there was a five-mile backup at the entrance to Arches, requiring park closure. All of the parking lots were overflowing so people utilized the fragile ecosystem as a giant lot. The ad push didn't seem to make much sense.
The sad thing is that we are doing the exact same thing here in Park City. We all recognize the issues with traffic, parking, development and affordable housing and our current city council is making progress in each of these areas, but it takes years and we have a lot of catching up to do.
After a record number of skier days in 2016 the tourism marketing engines are still running at full speed. While many locals seem to enjoy blaming Vail, the Office of Tourism and the local Chamber of Commerce are both planning large national ad campaigns to attract even more skiers. The Chamber recently touted their new campaign aimed at bringing in people "who have never visited Park City before."
It isn't just the ski season. The three-day Kimball Arts Festival has grown to 50,000 attendees. Sundance, The Tour of Utah, and the Fourth of July now draw monstrous crowds. Existing events grow and we keep adding new ones. Park City has a new summer film festival and they hope to grow substantially.
At what point do we allow our local "backlog of maintenance" some time to catch up with the frenzy. After all, wasn't the biggest mandate of our recent General Plan to Keep Park City "Park City"?
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In addition to the nonstop events, development in and around Park City is happening at an incredible pace. There is already substantial development being planned, with most of the density already vested, including Treasure Hill, the base of PCMR™, the base of Deer Valley and now Bonanza Park. These are small compared to what is planned around Jordanelle Reservoir.
Can anything be done to slow things down until the infrastructure can catch up? Here are just a few ideas to start:
There are certainly numerous other ideas. The most important thing is for all the involved organizations to recognize that bigger does not mean better. Growth is fine. Growth beyond what the infrastructure can support is not. We just had a huge community effort to protect Park City's brand. Let's work to make sure we don't tarnish it.
The Utah Office of Tourism shifted its summer ad focus to attract people to its less utilized State Parks instead of continuing to hammer the Mighty Five. That's a nice start.
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