Tom Clyde: Stick a fork in 2018
2018 was an interesting year around here. For example, we learned that we can have a successful ski season without snow. A snowless winter like the last used to wipe out about half the businesses in town. Nobody was cheering last winter, but overall, it was pretty good. We all tend to grouse about the effect Vail Resorts has had on the town, but on the positive side, their marketing horsepower and the flexibility of the Epic Pass kept this place alive.
Like the dog that finally catches a car, Park City is learning that Bonanza Flat is not going to manage itself. That should have been obvious when voters approved the bonds to buy it. Finding an acceptable balance among all the competing uses hasn’t been easy. Once they figure it out, providing an enforcement mechanism will be just as complicated. There’s a reason the Forest Service has all those Forest Rangers out there.
The social changes caused by the actions of scumbags like Harvey Weinstein have reshaped society. As pendulums tend to do, things seem to have swung too far in the other direction. Speaking to a person who presents as being at a point on the gender spectrum opposite of your own will get you in trouble. Observing that it is a very cold morning will surely be interpreted as some kind of micro-aggression against people of hot-flashes, and it’s all downhill from there.
It’s not all bad. This year, we saved the world. Plastic straws have now become as socially abhorrent as smoking. Both ski resorts are proudly announcing that they are plastic straw free, which certainly offsets any potentially negative environmental impacts they may cause by using a lot of coal-fired electricity to entertain jet-fuel-fired visitors for the winter. Banning plastic straws; quite literally the least we can do.
City voters overwhelmingly approved the bond issue to buy the Treasure Hill project. That density was sent off to density heaven. City residents were willing to spend money (mostly the second homeowners’) to reduce development. Meanwhile, the County adopted a new code governing the rural, agricultural side of the county. It fixed a lot of process problems, and just for good measure, doubled the density. There’s nothing that preserves the bucolic character of the rural part of the county like making it less rural.
The West was on fire as the multi-year drought worsened. We had some very close calls here. In October, Gov. Herbert suggested that it might be time to give some general thought to the possibility of perhaps conserving water, just a little. The public responded by watering their lawns twice a day deep into November. There are two things that will never happen in the West. One is meaningful water conservation and the other is significant bus ridership. Both are great ideas, as long as somebody else does them.
Park City’s vegan community got their arugula in a twist when cattle began grazing on the historic ranch land on the entrance to town. Some of them were on City-owned property, which was obviously some kind of official endorsement of eating meat and destroying the world with cow flatulence. Worse, each of the cows had been given a plastic straw. Somehow, we survived.
The voters approved a referendum on medical marijuana, and the next day, the Legislature decided to correct the misguided will of the people. The end result is that the County Health Department will now be violating Federal law dealing Schedule 1 narcotics.
In 2018 we got the new, ugly noise wall along I-80 to go with a new, ugly fourth uphill lane to accommodate even more ugly traffic. The wildlife bridge should help wildlife get across the freeway, because they get confused in the roundabouts. If there is a camera set up to show the happy critters crossing the bridge, the photos aren’t being shared. The new slalom course on Kilby Road is making everybody carsick. The new Ecker Hill smash-and-grab parking lot is up and running. Reports are that they have as many as 15 to 20 people a day using it. So the traffic problems at Kimball Junction are solved. We could have hired them each an Uber for less. Much of the problem there is a bad design. When it was a “view area” for people to pull off the freeway and take in the beauty of the outlet mall, it had direct access from I-80. Once it became a parking lot with access to a surface street, UDOT went nuts and closed the off ramp. So getting into the parking lot is a challenge.
On a personal level, the year included the addition of a new puppy to the household, an incredibly interesting bike trip through the Najavo reservation and Bears ears areas, and my niece’s successful kidney transplant. It was a full and interesting year.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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Columnist Tom Clyde writes that other states forcing people who’ve been in Utah to quarantine could complicate ski season: “Come and enjoy a long holiday weekend in Utah, and, as an added bonus, you get to take an additional two weeks off work.”