How a Community Foundation Is Helping a Tiny Utah Mountain Town Lead on Climate — Inside Philanthropy


Simply 8,526 individuals stay in Park Metropolis, Utah. The one-time mining city sits in a deep-red state the place the legislature as soon as passed a decision bashing science and implying local weather change is a conspiracy. And but, over the previous few years, town has emerged as a nationwide local weather chief. 

Park Metropolis has gained a nationwide award for its local weather efforts. Due to all the things from electric buses to solar farms, it may succeed in reaching internet zero emissions as a neighborhood inside a decade. And it’s main a coalition of mountain cities dedicated to combating local weather change.

Park Metropolis, after all, will not be your common alpine hamlet. It hosts the annual Sundance Movie Competition. Its ski resorts have been a few of the predominant areas for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Its part-time residents and guests embrace a few of the wealthiest and most well-connected People. And it’s a typically beloved location, persistently making the lists of “finest” and “prettiest” small cities in America. 

Regardless of its elite repute, town’s positive aspects on local weather change have been a workforce effort. One of many forces behind the outsized progress is the Park City Community Foundation, which was based in 2007. From its perch within the mountains east of Salt Lake Metropolis, the muse affords a mannequin for a way neighborhood funders, notably in small cities, can take regionally tailor-made motion on local weather change that each responds to their communities’ wants and leverages their distinctive strengths.

“Local weather change has been a thread all through the whole thing of the neighborhood basis’s existence,” mentioned Katie Wright, the group’s government director. “We perceive that we now have 10 years as a globe to reverse local weather change.”

Avoiding the “wrecking ball”

Like different mountain cities, snow—or moderately its absence—is on the coronary heart of Park Metropolis’s motion on local weather change. For the reason that Nineteen Seventies, town has lost about six weeks of winter temperatures. It’s a dynamic that has pushed neighborhood foundations in locations like Lake Tahoe, as IP covered earlier this year, to take motion on local weather change. 

For such locations, lack of snowpack is an existential risk. As native newspaper the Park Document put it in an editorial supporting the neighborhood basis’s work, local weather change might “at some point function a wrecking ball to Park Metropolis’s ski tourism-dependent financial system.”

“It’s our tradition. We get excited for powder days. Nevertheless it’s additionally the idea for our financial system. It’s what drives our means to fund issues,” Wright mentioned.

In considered one of its first such initiatives, the neighborhood basis commissioned a examine on the impression of local weather change on Park Metropolis’s snowfall. To convey the gravity of the state of affairs—to not point out create a media-friendly photograph op—the muse held an occasion with teams of kids lined up on the projected 2030, 2050 and 2075 snow strains. 

When Park Metropolis officers pledged in 2018 to scale back municipal carbon emissions to zero and transition to 100% renewable electrical energy by 2022—and by 2030 for the entire neighborhood—Wright’s group knew it had a task to play. A shared aim is simply the form of catalyst she’d advocate for any neighborhood basis trying to enter the sector.

“Setting an formidable imaginative and prescient, in partnership with key stakeholders, is a good first step for any neighborhood basis in addressing local weather change,” Wright mentioned. 

Consequently, over the previous two years, the neighborhood basis has launched and grown two initiatives to fund native work and innovation, whereas additionally sharing these classes far past Park Metropolis.

A local weather fund for wetlands, weeds and extra

Final 12 months, the neighborhood basis launched the Park City Climate Fund. The intention was to ascertain, for the primary time, an ongoing supply of funding for local weather work. 

“The reality is, we now have discovered it troublesome to have constant, continued local weather efforts,” Wright mentioned. “It’s all the time been troublesome for us to boost sources on the stage we needed.”

For a younger basis that can also be attempting to construct its endowment, the selection is a response to the urgency of local weather change, and one backed by donor curiosity. The fund has raised sufficient to supply not less than $100,000 yearly for the subsequent few years, and fundraising continues, with a aim of getting not less than a quarter-million {dollars} in funding yearly. And it’s not simply from the same old suspects. They’ve acquired cash from retired oil and gasoline executives, even grandmothers involved about their grandchildren’s futures. 

“I’ve additionally been shocked about who’s obsessed with local weather change. I’d encourage individuals to suppose broadly about their donor base,” Wright mentioned. “This is a matter that cuts throughout politics and different stereotypes greater than we expect it does.”

This system made its first grants in February 2020, with $175,000 going to 3 state organizations: Recycle Utah, TreeUtah and Utah Clear Power. Final month, an extra $210,000 round of grants went to eight candidates, together with native teams. The quantities ranged from $14,000 to $75,000. 

Like a lot of the basis’s giving, grants are usually not restricted to initiatives throughout the municipality—efforts wherever in Summit County, the place Park Metropolis is positioned, and adjoining areas are eligible. Neither is the fund tied to any specific technique. It lists a half-dozen areas of curiosity, but additionally suggests grantees have a look at Challenge Drawdown’s extensively referenced record of local weather options for concepts. 

“In contrast to a few of our different efforts, what we discovered was, there wasn’t a transparent roadmap that everybody agreed on or we might comply with,” Wright mentioned. “I believe that simply speaks to the problem of local weather change… that no person, globally, has it discovered. And the responses have to be so localized.”

Funded initiatives vary from an effort to revive streams and wetlands, together with a volunteer-run effort to construct 100 dams modeled after beaver dams, and funding an environmental justice fellowship with Deliberate Parenthood of Utah, which can assist create the framework for a future Youth Environmental Justice Coalition. Different grants have gone towards lobbying campaigns on state power guidelines, eradicating a noxious weed often known as garlic mustard, and planting 2,000-plus timber.

One emphasis is discovering regionally suited options, not only for Park Metropolis, however for all mountain areas. As an illustration, one mission goals to have a look at sequestration strategies that work in excessive alpine communities, notably for the cattle ranches that border most ski resorts. Wright mentioned most information she’s encountered are gathered at decrease altitudes. The inspiration hopes its grantees can produce analysis that may be shared.

“What we discovered is, there’s so many nice concepts in the neighborhood,” Wright mentioned. “If we will put sources and help into these concepts, we’ve actually accomplished our job.”

A league of mountain cities combating local weather change 

One chorus repeated throughout the neighborhood basis’s work on local weather is that they need to attain past town’s ski slopes and geographic borders. The local weather fund’s mission assertion, for example, goals to develop options that “have the potential to be efficient in comparable communities.”

The popularity Park Metropolis has gained reveals that its imaginative and prescient will not be some pie-in-the-sky dream. This 12 months, town was chosen because the U.S. winner of the World Wildlife Fund’s One Planet Metropolis Problem program, beating out 22 different finalists, together with metropolises like Los Angeles and Cleveland.

“Park Metropolis earned this award as a result of they confirmed how cities can tackle these emissions and be essential testbeds and multipliers of local weather options,” mentioned Kevin Taylor, the U.S. director of this system, in a press release. “They confirmed we will all affect optimistic change on local weather motion.”

Probably the most organized efforts to share town’s classes launched final 12 months, when the neighborhood basis joined with town authorities to discovered Mountain Towns 2030, a coalition of alpine municipalities devoted to decreasing their carbon emissions to zero, ideally by 2030, and provoking others alongside the way in which. 

Notably, the ties between the muse and town have all the time been tight. The inspiration was founded by Bradley Och, a three-term former mayor of town, and John Cumming, a local philanthropist who owned one of many metropolis’s two main ski resorts till 2014. 

“Park Metropolis is on the forefront in main mountain cities to take motion in reversing local weather change and Park Metropolis Group Basis performs a vital position,” said town’s mayor, Andy Beerman, in a press launch. “Our native concentrate on this situation has the ability to serve for example for world impression.”

Different mountain cities, reminiscent of Jackson Gap, Wyoming, have equally formidable local weather targets. However these communities didn’t have many boards to attach and be taught from one another. Efforts like Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Initiative have been an inspiration. “We understood these networks have plenty of impression,” Wright mentioned.

The Mountain Cities 2030 kickoff occasion introduced a few of the star energy that Park Metropolis can command, together with researcher Jane Goodall and Challenge Drawdown founder Paul Hawken. The group, for which the neighborhood basis serves as fiscal sponsor, additionally funded local weather inventories for 20 convention goers, lots of which have been simply beginning their local weather journeys. Because of the pandemic, the group’s second summit can be held in 2021. 

To this point, 20 cities have signed the coalition’s pledge, not simply these in Utah, but additionally Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. In whole, the pledge has greater than 40 signatories, together with numerous conservation teams and ski corporations—key companions in mountain cities, contemplating the quantity of power they use.

“There are plenty of actually small mountain communities that don’t actually have a street map,” mentioned Wright. “If we labored collectively, we might accomplish an incredible deal.”

An indication of issues to come back?

Wright is fast to notice that Park Metropolis’s local weather footprint is miniscule. Decreasing it won’t, by itself, have a lot impression. However the metropolis’s visibility is big. It will get thousands and thousands of holiday makers annually. A few of these guests are among the many strongest within the state, if not the nation. They usually come to commune with nature—a time when persons are particularly receptive to desirous about humanity’s relationship with the atmosphere.

“We all know that, though we’re small, we will have this larger affect,” she mentioned. “And that’s a part of the explanation we now have such formidable targets. Folks will come right here and keep right here and see what we’re doing right here and produce it again with them.” 

It’s onerous to understand how a lot, if in any respect, Park Metropolis was an affect, however Utah’s authorities is beginning to make some unusual strikes for a Republican-dominated legislature. In January, a government-funded report provided a roadmap for slashing the state’s emissions. And in October, a bipartisan group of greater than 100 state leaders signed a compact on local weather motion.

Town has additionally made an impression farther from residence. As an illustration, Park Metropolis was one of many early purchasers of electrical buses from an organization referred to as Proterra, which has become a major player as municipalities throughout the nation electrify their bus fleets. 

These steps and the neighborhood basis’s new investments in local weather motion have, after all, come throughout a 12 months thrown into disarray by one other risk: COVID-19. As with different grantmakers, the muse’s workforce has put plenty of work towards assembling an emergency fund to help their neighborhood’s wants. But for Wright, one silver lining of the pandemic is larger optimism concerning the potential for the nation—and humanity—to beat the quickly ticking local weather clock.

“We’ve seen that individuals can actually dramatically change the way in which they stay in a brief period of time,” she mentioned. “I believe all of that studying bodes effectively for a decade of actually dramatic local weather motion.”


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