Guest editorial: Activists remembered at library opening
June 16, 2015
Words danced on soft summer breezes along with a community’s enthusiasm last Saturday. At the grand reopening of Park City’s Library, words like story, memory, legacy and community filled the air.
Inspired by a renovated historic building, friends gathered in bright sunlight to pass books hand-to-hand in a charming Park City ritual. We demonstrated a commitment to the written word and a public library vital to our community’s wellbeing. Sitting in the park-like setting of the old Carl Winters School stirred memories and my sense of place.
For more than 15 years, I lived in a rickety miners shack a block away from the boarded up brick building of yester-year. The adjacent playing field was our neighborhood park. I played Frisbee with my husband and retrievers on fall afternoons, read Kurt Vonnegut in the spring grass and picked wild plums with Rusty Prudence near the field’s rough edges. It was 1988 and I was in love with my old Park City neighborhood.
It is hard to imagine now, in light of Park City’s enormous success as a destination ski resort and tony second-home enclave, that the town ever needed revenue. But it did. The neglected Carl Winters School site was slated to become the economic engine in a development scheme by government officials to rezone our public space and make way for a privately owned hotel. Imagine that.
While Saturday’s speakers alluded to community involvement with the library, more homage was paid to the financial savvy of past government officials responsible for its near demise. The essential role of community activists, who in the late 1980s went to battle for what has become a celebrated icon of community pride, was given short shrift in the historical narrative.
Community Coalition are two words describing a vocal group of citizens who showed up time and again at City Council meetings, penned heartfelt Letters to the Editor and sponsored goofy fundraisers like the Dirt Bag Ball and Cow Pie Bingo to protect a public resource from private development. We spoke out and showed up. Thankfully, our actions helped save a historic piece of Park City. The sway of words and an engaged citizenry ensured the public’s legacy.
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The Coalition’s fight for a building owned by us and constructed around an engine of ideas, rather than economic development designed solely for private gain, is a powerful and important chapter in our town’s story. Sometimes, we must use the muscle of words to honor what we value most. Saturday reminded me that I am proud we did.