Teri Orr: Enviable growth | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: Enviable growth

Teri Orr, Park Record columnist

I looked around the room filled with giant sticky notes generated from a day of facilitated conversations with City officials about the future of our town. The ones with only words on them, in mono colors, couldn’t hold my attention. The cartoon-style animated multicolored ones with sketches of buses and gondolas and open spaces and condensed housing and walking paths … those drew me in. There was a happy buzz in the room at the cocktail reception where folks who serve on the city’s various boards and commissions were invited to join city staff for a few hours and share opinions, along with beverages.

The room was a surprise. Other than luxury homes or hotels there are so few places where you can be elevated enough and unobstructed enough to have a panoramic view of the mountains. But the second floor of the spacious gracious Christian Center (formerly real estate offices and a bank) gave us all a direct view of the Park City Mountain Resort. It was right there, in full view, out the windows. It was easy to see the beauty that brought us and binds us.

The Center functions to serve the underserved of our community. It houses a thrift store and food bank and meeting rooms for counseling and family services. Folks are always surprised there is a need for this facility until they spend a day there. And the quiet generous folks who have supported this effort, for all its years, make certain everyone who enters is treated with respect and dignity and compassion. It is faith based only in the broadest sense of the golden rule and there are folks "doing unto others" daily.

It seemed that air of kindness was in the room with the city folk who were optimistic about the possibilities for the challenges we face. They spent two days doing hard work and they were motivated by the results of those discussions. I was looking at the transportation drawings and another man, not in government but who worked alongside it for decades, pointed out the gondola and talked about the great value of seeing that created. And then we laughed about the full circle of having a gondola when we first moved here and its replacement with something more modern and now we are back to seeing the charm and the transportation function that could be possible with a new system constructed on the opposite of town from the old one operated.

We grumbled a bit about the need for park and ride and how well that worked during the Olympics. And then we talked about Americans and our love of cars and we will never be Europe with efficient running trains and somewhere in all that we started to smile. How far the community had come, we admitted to one another, we were having these discussions about growth. We had both been here when the future had almost no planning involved. Only survival. "Most places on the planet would love to have these problems to discuss," he quipped. And I nodded. And drifted away for a moment.

The year I moved to town in 1979 I was hired as a reporter (with zero experience but great enthusiasm) for The Park Record. There was an editor, a news editor, and they gave me the title of the feature editor. And there was a secretary. Together we put out a paper that sometimes exceeded a dozen tabloid size pages. There weeks when there was little news, like most all of spring, and I confess we manufactured some. We had tried to get folks concerned about the state of the roads in town after we had each ruined tires in vehicle-eating-sized potholes. Our coverage generated zero letters to the editor.

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So we got more aggressive. We took pictures of the potholes and we gave them names and we planted geraniums in them. We waited to see how long folks would drive around the holes with the flowers in them. One, in the middle of Park Avenue, lasted almost a month in May. Nobody was in any hurry to go up or down the street and you would drive in the opposite lane to avoid the cherry red flowering plant. As I recall the plant didn’t get run over. It got, um, relocated, to someone’s sloping wooden front porch.

By July the two city street workers had loaded up a truck with asphalt and put shovelfuls in the holes. We couldn’t afford to repave the streets back then, just sorta patch them.

The town was such a falling down quaint place we figured we couldn’t hurt it really by trying to make changes or draw attention to shortcomings and we just might make a few things better. None of us had grown up in Park City. None of us knew how long we’d stay.

Looking around the room the other night, filled with young professionals (in the best sense of that phrase) and a handful of seasoned survivors from those days past, it was a scene we couldn’t have imagined a few decades past. The town grew up to host international events from ski races to the Olympics to the Sundance Film Festival. The roads get paved now, as needed, stories from city hall fill pages of this paper, which comes out twice a week. And in the midst of that growth and excitement on how to plan for the future, city staff spent some time working at, and with, the folks at Christian Center. Stocking the shelves at the food bank and helping clients with the food and clothing items they needed to provide for their families.

And here’s what I took away from that gathering…we do have plenty of problems and my friend was right problems most communities would love to be challenged with. But in the midst of all that we have managed to carve out time and a beautiful space to care for each other. It is a powerful way to measure success any day like this Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.