Resilience in Park City, UT
While Park City’s year-round population hovers around 8,000, the resort town accommodates up to 3 million tourists each year and maintains infrastructure for a population closer to 80,000. It hosts many annual high-profile events, and with so many eyes on the city, its leaders and residents are eager to set an example for other communities. Park City has North America’s most ambitious climate goals: achieve net-zero carbon emissions and 100 percent renewable electricity for city operations by 2022, and for the whole community by 2032. In order to activate the broader community and optimize participation, the city enacted a My Sustainable Year campaign that includes events and information sessions throughout the year.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Park City faces increasing temperatures, wildfires and smoke hazards in the warmer months. The city is exploring innovative ways to manage the many thousands of acres of surrounding forests which are increasingly stressed, filled with dying trees and releasing methane into the atmosphere. Through the My Sustainable Year campaign, Park City is working to both lessen these impacts on local residents, and achieve carbon sequestration goals by collecting dead and decomposing materials from forested areas and private property, and turning them into a carbon rich soil amendment known as biochar. When applied to forest lands and gardens, biochar improves water and soil quality and can be used as fertilizer.
Modeled on a program developed by neighboring Summit County, Park City plans to pilot a series of community events and workshops to educate and engage the community on the use of biochar as a forest management and carbon sequestration tool. The city has already engaged a range of partners to move this project forward, including a cross-departmental group comprised of Park City Emergency Management, the Forestry Advisory Board, Fire District, and Forest Manager, as well as the Lone Peak Hotshots (an inter-agency crew of state and federal wildfire experts), the city’s two ski resorts and other businesses and land conservancies. With NLC’s support, Park City hopes their pilot project can become a salable model for other western cities facing similar climate risks.