So I was in Park City, Utah, last week expecting to find a green haven among the pristine white winter wonderland. As one of the world’s most desira le ski areas with upscale communities and lodging to rival Vail and Aspen, Park City is truly a special place. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that despite an abundance of natural and man-made beauty – not to mention a
population of educated, nature-loving outdoors enthusiasts – Park City is seemingly behind the times in sustainability.
Some of the finest hiking in the world, great whitewater rafting, and of course world class skiing. You’d think those pursuits would transfer over to local policies that are fairly restrictive on development, and an overall culture of green. Certainly everybody I met on the hiking trails and at the river looked the part, and it seemed that they were concerned about all things environmental. It wasn’t until I got to really tour the area, which includes the ski mountain as well as Old Town, the main drag filled with businesses and shopping, that some practices I observed began to raise my eyebrows.
Most of the upscale lodges offer shuttle service from Empire Pass and upper Deer Valley, particularly luxurious parts of Park City near the top of the main ski mountain, down to Old Town. Even when the weather is warmer, they all seem to leave their shuttle vehicles – mostly larger SUVs of course – running, for hours if need be, burning fuel and emitting car on all the while. Recycling bins are often difficult to locate. Many of the pricier homes in and around Park City are enormous, six to twelve thousand square footers. These palaces often serve as third or fourth homes for their well-to-do owners. We toured some empty ones and while beautiful, I noticed many of the thermostats were set to a toasty 74 degrees despite being empty most of the year (with the exception of peak ski season).
Perhaps most disturbing was hearing about a troubled residential fourplex project that was built to state-of-the-art green standards. According to reliable sources in the local real estate community, it seems that buyers are avoiding it like the plague because they immediately assume the green features add cost not value. The project is very well designed, sets a standard for energy efficiency and thoughtful construction, and it is priced commensurate with similar higher end properties in the area. Yet its designation as a green design property has made it more albatross than swan. Hard to figure that this would be the case in Park City, Utah, an outdoorsman’s paradise?
Also surprising is to see the huge amount of residential inventory available in the area, yet there are construction projects planned for what seems like every empty lot. Hasn’t the housing crisis taught us anything? Here’s hoping that a revelation will occur and the developers of these coming projects will at least design and build them using sustainable materials.
I am not trying to attack Park City, I actually love the place. But it was a real surprise, and disappointment, to find that this gorgeous resort community has a long way to go before it can claim to be not only a white but green wonderland.
As always, my friends, please post your replies, thanks!