Jennifer Wesselhoff, CEO of the Park City Chamber of Commerce, grabs coffee with locals to learn how to serve the community better

PARK CITY, Utah — The Park City Chamber of Commerce’s new CEO, Jennifer Wesselhoff, sat down with local residents at Hugo Coffee Thursday morning for an informal meet-and-greet and to chat about issues the local community faces. Topics discussed ranged from transportation challenges on Park Avenue and Rail Trail maintenance to the potential effects of climate change on Park City down the line.

For the most part, attendees shared consensus on a number of topics, among them being an aversion to Main Street. “For most locals, Main Street is an attraction more so when we have people visiting, but my wife and I will more often go down to a restaurant in Salt Lake City for date night, rather than going up to Main Street,” said local businessman Earl Foote. He went on, “That’s partially because of crowds, partially due to [a lack of] parking, and partially due to price.”

Another such topic that received wide focus from the group was that of maintaining Park City’s “authentic culture.” Wesselhoff believes the key to this complex issue is to practice “sustainable tourism”— a concept she had success implementing during her 13-year tenure as the CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. “We usually only focus on thriving businesses and a positive visitor experience, but with a sustainable tourism plan, it allows us to look at how tourism impacts, both positively and negatively, the environment and quality of life, and how we can use our influence and marketing acumen to better change behavior.” According to Wesselhoff, an example of a sustainable tourism strategy for Park City would be to reduce visitor traffic on the roads and increase their use of public transportation, which would both enhance the quality of life and reduce CO2 emissions.

A small group of locals gather around Wesselhoff to discuss Park City issues. Photo: Park City Chamber of Commerce

Both the delights and scourge of widespread e-bike use were also discussed at length. One attendee went so far as to say she felt unsafe on certain trails around town because of high e-bike traffic among tourists who might still be figuring out how to use their bikes.

Tied into the discussion about e-bikes was the topic of Park City’s paved trail system, of which some members of the group voiced their disappointment. “If you look at other mountain tourist towns like Jackson, Sun Valley, and Ketchum, their paved trail systems are far superior to ours. Here, navigating 224 can be a little difficult—you have to go out of your way to find how to get across the street or how to get over or under a bridge. I guess it just feels disconnected,” said Foote.

As the meeting concluded, a final question was levied upon Wesselhoff about what potential strategy, if any, the Chamber of Commerce has to address the effects of climate change in the years ahead. According to a 2018 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, if global temperatures continue to rise at their current rate, winters will continue to shorten until about the year 2100, when there will be no snow left in the Wasatch Mountain Range.

“In a recent survey we sent out to all of our members, we asked what issues were most important to them, and the top three were green initiatives and recycling, sustainable tourism, and climate change. So this is a priority for us, and it is for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). Just last year we launched the process of assessing Park City according to the GSTC’s criteria, which will tell us how well we’re performing as a destination as it relates to sustainable tourism. Once we get the results from that, we’ll be able to share those with the public before November 1. Then, the purpose of that assessment is to really inform all of our actions moving forward and help us prioritize next steps,” she explained.

When asked whether economic diversification would also factor into the Chamber’s strategy, Wesselhoff was enthusiastic in her response. “Entrepreneurship is definitely part of that diversification. Workshops for entrepreneurs are already happening here once a month that help connect entrepreneurs with resources, mentors, and angel investors. There are also plans to help attract larger companies, like Backcountry, POC, and Skull Candy, companies that really fit in here. We’ll have to work with the county and the city on that in terms of how we can attract and retain businesses here. There’s a lot of work to be done.”


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