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Park City completes decades-long Old Town stairway project, improving safety and access

Park City hosts a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the end of a decades-long Old Town stairway project.
Kristine Weller
Park City hosts a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the end of a decades-long Old Town stairway project.

The Park City Council celebrated the end of a project decades in the making on Tuesday. The 9th and 10th street stairs are the last part of the project to be completed.

Park City Councilmember Tana Toly said Park City was plotted by a group of developers from Michigan in the 1880s. Since the developers had never been to Park City, they didn’t realize roads that ran east to west went up the side of a canyon; roads couldn’t be built in that direction.

Since the slope was too steep, miners at the time built wooden stairways instead, to access nearby homes.

Park City Historical Society & Museum, Sharon Spencer Collection
Sundquist brothers Earne and Vaner with Joe Giacoma behind 250 Grant Street.

However, the stairs and even the houses built by the miners were not meant to last. Cheryl Soshnik, who lives on 10th Street, said Old Town was only meant to exist for 20 to 30 years.

“The miners thought that they would come in, you know, make some quick money, and then leave again and the town would just disappear,” she said.

That’s why, in the 1980s, the city created a redevelopment budget to replace and repair deteriorating stairs and add new stair sections.

“I think they're very sexy, those old stairs," Soshnik said. "But then since I've been here, the city really has taken the lead in saying these stairs are dangerous.”

Since then, all the stairways have been improved and constructed, except for three city blocks on 9th Street and one on 10th Street. These blocks connect lower Main Street and the Old Town neighborhoods in the area.

 Shorty's Stairs on Rossi Hill in 1970.
Park City Historical Society & Museum, Carl Woolsey Collection
Shorty's Stairs on Rossi Hill in 1970.

It was a community effort. Soshnik said residents went to city council, planning commission and historic district meetings to urge the city to build stairs on all the east-to-west plotted roads.

“In the last few years, more and more developers were coming and they were asking for the city to vacate their right-of-way to the road because they wanted to put in their own driveways and they wanted to use this area,” she said.

Soshnik and other locals wanted the stairs to stay to help with pedestrian mobility and safety. Soshnik said she’s seen dangerous close calls near her 10th Street home.

“I would just see cars coming down and almost hitting people all the time," she said. "It really was scary and so that’s when I was really saying we got to finish the 9th Street stairs to get people off of the roads.”

Park City Councilmember Tana Toly said the stairs will also help skiers and residents avoid 8th Street, which has a blind corner.

“This was a process that took some time,” she said. “We worked really hard with the Old Town community who is impacted by the stairs, and worked to make sure that the design worked for them.”

She said the 9th and 10th Street stair project was finished on time and on budget. And locals and visitors are already taking advantage of the stairs. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, people used the stairs going to and from Main Street.