The Park City Council received an update from the Central Wasatch Commission Wednesday, as councilmembers decide whether to continue contributing funding to the organization.
Park City pays $100,000 every year to support and participate in the Central Wasatch Commission, a government entity of local stakeholders from the Wasatch Back and Front. Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker heads the commission as its executive director. The commission is a continuation of the Mountain Accord, addressing transportation, recreation and environmental stewardship in the Wasatch Mountains.
Councilmember Steve Joyce requested the update from Becker and the CWC. Joyce says whenever he hears about the work the commission is doing, it’s related to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
“Everything I heard for us being a part was defensive, and everything I see in the press of things being done that sound really interesting and good are really aimed at the two canyons," Joyce said. "So I kind of went, well, I'm not interested in paying $100,000 a year to be defensive.”
Becker says 30 years ago, when the Wasatch Back didn’t have much to do with the Wasatch Front, he would have agreed with Joyce. But now, all land-use decisions are regional, and to protect public land in Summit County, it’s important to be part of the Central Wasatch Commission.
“There is not another advocate outside of Park City and Summit County that I'm aware of for trying to assure that that land remains public and doesn't get traded into private hands,” Becker said.
Nine entities pay into the Central Wasatch Commission, at varying contribution levels. At the low end, Alta pays $15,000, while Salt Lake City tops the list at $200,000. Summit County pays $50,000 annually. Councilmember Tim Henney acknowledges the value of participating in the CWC, but he says there needs to be a conversation about balancing the relative contributions of each entity.
“The County’s putting in $50,000 a year; Park City is putting in $100,000 a year," Henney said. "Every time the County puts in $50,000, half of that comes from inside Park City limits, so that $50,000 is really $25,000 from non-Park City residents and $25,000 from Park City limits residents, and then Park City residents are putting in another $100,000.”
Park City’s contribution to the Central Wasatch Commission is already written into the fiscal year 2020 budget. But the City Council could potentially adjust that amount before giving final approval to the budget in June.