Guest editorial: Get educated and get involved with Mountain Accord
Trains and gondolas and buses, oh my! With car-mageddon threatening our peaceful mountain town, worry is in the air. Gone are the days where our dogs slept safely on Main Street — long gone! Our serenity has fallen victim to our success with over 3 million visitors per year, two second homes for every permanent residence, and a workforce of 20,000+ to support it all. Jam this into a narrow valley, with limited access, and our little town faces city-like congestion.
We should be scared, but of what? There are things that keep me up at night: massive development plans in Summit and Wasatch Counties, expansions of both of our resorts, pipelines, climate change (rain in February — that’s scary!), water scarcity, outward migration of locals, an endless appetite for construction, soaring property values, and declining air quality are a few. I didn’t, however, mention transportation solutions or connectivity in my "parade of horrors". Our fears should be squarely focused on the root issues: growth, pollution and greed, not on the limited tools we have to manage them.
Nor does our current transportation system deserve some of the criticism I’ve heard. Our bus system is world class and carries over 2 million riders annually. It was wisely established in 1977 when we were a fledgling resort, and has served us well. However, as we grow and evolve, so must our tools. Tomorrow’s Park City will require a web of connectivity to complement our existing system. Trails and walkability will be critical; so will be gondolas, funiculars, and other people-movers to connect our resorts to our commercial cores. Express/Rapid bus could address our immediate needs, and rail remains a possibility for the future. Throw in some creative solutions such as an Uber-like van system, electric vehicles and bikes, responsive traffic sensors, transit oriented development patterns, and cars become a choice, not a need.
Perhaps we should view our current challenges as an opportunity? Cars and traffic are the antithesis of community. Building a system less dependent upon cars would enhance our health, our environment, our community, and possibly our economy. Park City has shown leadership in many ways, why not build our reputation on connectivity, rather than opulence? Who doesn’t want a vacation from their cars?
Finding tools to address our growth has become a priority for the entire region. While we work aggressively on local issues, regional efforts are also underway. The Mountain Accord is one of those regional efforts and will soon bring us new ‘tools’ to consider. Formed by concerned parties from both sides of the Wasatch, the Accord is focused on solutions ‘to preserve the legacy of the Wasatch Mountains.’ At its heart, it’s a preservation project, but it addresses many challenges including trails, land preservation, watershed, transportation, and the resort economy. I encourage you to learn more about how this could integrate with our community at a public forum on Feb 24, 6:00pm at the Eccles Black Box Theatre. In the meantime, please visit the Mountain Accord website: http://www.mountainaccord.com to view their Proposed Blueprint for a Better Wasatch.
As the saying goes, ‘The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.’ In the 70’s we had the foresight to establish a bus system that has become essential to our community. In the 80’s and 90’s we had the courage to buy and preserve open space to limit our outward growth. What should we be doing now to sustain our mountain lifestyle? Get educated, get involved, and come be part of the solution.
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A reader says elected officials’ rejection of UDOT’s plan to widen S.R. 248 is “nothing short of irresponsible leadership.”