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Park City Citizens Say Gordo Decision Should Be ‘by the Community, for the Community’

Park City Municipal

Discussion around a proposed toxic soils site on the outskirts of Park City along SR 248 have taken center stage over the past several weeks after members of the community accused city hall of a lack of transparency in the process. Public feedback was taken at last week’s city council meeting. The message? Let’s take our time. 


Mining may have helped put Park City on the map in the late 1800s, but the byproducts of that industry have left a sizable amount of soil spread throughout the city contaminated with the likes of chemicals like lead and arsenic.


It’s enough of an issue that Park City even has a soils ordinance for much of the central areas of town. The ordinance says even soil in the area disturbed by basic backyard landscaping needs to be covered with at least six inches of fresh soil. 


Park City Councilor Becca Gerber said the contaminated soil is a part of almost any construction project in the city and the proposed site is an effort to find a more economical way to dispose of the waste.


“There really are these contaminated soils across the city,” said Gerber. “Anytime we do a project, we’re dealing with them. They’re under our roads, they’re under our transit center. Any project we do moving forward whether it’s housing at Homestake or the arts and culture district or even Woodside, we’re going to need to have a solution and we’ve also heard from a lot of our community, our prospector neighborhoods, that there are smaller projects where they would like some opportunities to be able to deal with this in a socially and fiscally responsible manner. That’s really what we’re talking about.” 


The city has explored several avenues to deal with the soil over the years, including previous usage of the Gordo site in 2010. The most recent method used is transporting the waste to a facility in Tooele County in western Utah.


However, that method has proved costly. According to city estimates, the city could save $17.9 million dollars in transportation costs over the course of current and future city projects by constructing a repository closer to the city.


But the thought of having a dedicated location where toxic soil is dumped in Park City has given many members of the public pause.


Rich Wyman is a local musician and Park City resident. He urged the city to take their time with this process and not try to sell the public their plans.


“Think about taking our time,” Wyman said. “This could take years. Please give us all time to catch up, find out what’s going on. Don’t try to reassure us. Let’s all find out what’s going on and make a decision for the community by the community, for the community.” 


Announced early last week, the city and councilors will begin a 60-day period of community outreach and education for the Gordo site. Councilor Gerber said the public will have several opportunities to weigh in before any decisions on the project are made.


“So really the 60 days is to help educate the public and give them an opportunity to participate in these discussions,” she said. “Several of the tools we are using to communicate to the public are more presentation style, but there’s also going to be public hearings, we’re going to be having stakeholder outreach groups and those really are opportunities for the public to say, ‘hey, I’m concerned about this, or have you thought about this?’ And, actually, we embrace the discussion.” 


More information on the soils project can be found here.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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