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Tarnished by Tourism

Ski lift flanked by snow-covered trees

Park City, Utah, is an idyllic town located in the northern part of the state. “Winter’s Favorite Town” is now synonymous with ski resorts and film festivals. When summer hits, more tourists arrive with their mountain bikes and hiking shoes. Boasting an average of three million visitors a year, Park City draws in tourists of every kind.

While everyone loves to experience the magic of Park City, local “Parkites” live a different experience. The average population—including both Park City proper and Snyderville suburbs—is about 14,000 year-round. As I am one of those permanent residents, Park City is more than just a weekend-trip for me.

Park City is rooted in my family tree. Driving around Old Town holds the same nostalgia as flipping through a scrapbook. My great-grandmother was born in 1912 in an old miners’ hospital in Park City. My dad used to drive up every month to visit his aunts who lived on Main Street in homes that have since been demolished. My mom, who moved to Park City in the ’70s, fondly remembers her now-repurposed high school haunts.

As one of the newest leaves on an old tree, I had the perfect Park City childhood. In the future, I would love to lay down my own roots. Unfortunately, due to the effects tourism has had on my town, that option is a pipe dream.

With rising home costs, Park City is no longer easily affordable. Property that once cost $25,000 is now worth $500,000. Areas that were used for field games are now park-and-rides. Woodward, the newest Park City attraction, adds to the light pollution—ruining the once clear night sky.

While this boom in tourism has supplied my town with incredible public transportation and delicious food destinations, the influx of tourists and new move-ins has rid Park City of its miner-town charm.

Tourism tokenizes historical sites; the preservation of city artifacts is bulldozed by ways to wow tourists. It creates horrible class disparity between generational locals, move-ins, or second-housers. As you travel to Park City and other tourism-driven towns, be aware of how tourism has erased the town’s unique culture.

If you travel to small towns, take care to minimize the effects of your tourism. Visit historical museums. Support small businesses rather than large corporations that have camped out in tourist traps. But most importantly, remember that every small town you visit for its charm may simply be a hollow mold of what it once was.

Emily Pearson