Alta Mayor William H. Levitt once said that Alta is to Salt Lake City what Central Park is to New York City.
Sitting in a dining room of his Alta Lodge, he talks of the precious jewel viewed outside the plate-glass windows. He describes the town's new master plan designed to preserve this "park of the Wasatch."At the heart of the plan he said is protection - protection of the delicate watershed of Little Cottonwood Canyon and protection of visitors in this beautiful, yet sometimes dangerous, environment.
"With the increasing demand for canyon use by both local and out-of-state residents, overintensive development leading to irreparable damage to some of Utah's most valuable assets becomes a real possibility," the plan states.
Poorly planned or overintensive development could diminish the quality of the Utah recreation experience for all visitors and reduce the long-term potential of the area, it reads.
The plan, adopted by the Alta Town Council in November, emphasizes keeping things as they are in this ski-resort community.
For example, in the master plan there is not much room for change to U-210 - Alta's lifeline to the outside world.
"Any proposed change to the existing highway should be carefully scrutinized in light of the current saturation level of the canyon. Costly and unsightly improvements to increase the traffic capacity are likely to be self-defeating by overloading the capacity of the hill," the plan states.
The only real change proposed for the road by the plan are avalanche sheds for some 36 major avalanche paths from the mouth of the canyon to Alta. The sheds would act like tunnels and allow the snow to slide over the road without obstructing traffic.
The plan doesn't allow much room for more commercial or residential development, either. It's a place where people are proud 7-Eleven and McDonald's haven't decided to build there yet.
The master plan supports a limited expansion of the ski area, consistent with the U.S. Forest Service plan. It calls for any future commercial development to be at the "base area" at the foot of the ski runs. Levitt said that translates into limited opportunity for more commercial operations. Building of a parking structure at the base of the mountain should be investigated to help parking problems, the plan says.
Residential development is also limited by the plan to areas currently zoned for residential use. Residential development must be in areas served by sewer and water systems.