Park City and Summit County tackle incendiary issue
Basking in the subtle blinking of a solar-energy meter as it quietly ticks off the number of kilowatts being subtracted from your power bill may never offer the same romantic ambiance as the roar of an armload of piñon pine igniting in a cast iron woodstove. But, in time, we hope alternative energy sources will be as warmly embraced. In the meantime, though, it appears that sparks will fly as elected officials attempt to begin regulating wood-burning appliances.
Next month, the Park City Council is slated to consider establishing a permit system for residential wood-burning stoves and the Summit County Council has already approved a temporary moratorium on the installation of woodstoves in new dwellings.
The issue is already drawing fire from those who cherish the postcard image of a solitary ski-town chalet blanketed with snow and emitting puffs of aromatic smoke into the surrounding forest. Unfortunately, the reality-corrected version of that scene looks more like a densely populated subdivision peppered with belching chimneys in a densely populated valley smothered by a blanket of smog.
The County Council is hoping to use its six-month moratorium to craft a long-term policy to address future growth while its municipal counterpart is planning to tackle the tricky subject from a different angle. As proposed, Park City councilors are contemplating a cap and trade permit system that would allow residents to barter or buy a limited number of wood-burning permits.
Ski town inhabitants, however, are a rugged, independent bunch and one way they exhibit their hardiness is by splitting, stacking and torching logs to warm their mountain abodes. It will likely take more than an ordinance to change that mindset.
But smart citizens have made lifestyle changes before in order to preserve their beloved landscapes. There was a time when unleaded gas was considered a government conspiracy and recycling seemed like an unnecessary exercise. Soon, perhaps, residents will become as self-conscious about spewing woodstove particulates above their neighborhoods as they are today about idling a badly tuned car in the driveway or burning trash in the backyard.
In the meantime, city and county elected officials are moving in the right direction looking for ways to regulate wood-burning appliances. But even citizens who bristle against authority can do their part by shifting toward alternative energy sources, trading in their messy wood box for a gas fireplace — or at least by retrofitting their existing woodstoves to burn more efficiently.