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Charm versus growth
Ogden Valley wants to keep both

Sun, Aug 26, 2003

By JEFF DEMOSS Standard-Examiner staff

Huntsville - On just about any given day, horse-drawn carts bearing passengers click and clack through the streets of this historic Ogden Valley town, reminiscent of the days when the Wood family hand delivered meat from a wagon throughout the valley, fur trappers gathered in the town square, and "cars" ran on water and hay.

Today, motorized vehicles are the preferred transportation method as the Ogden Valley experiences an era of unprecedented growth. But local business owners say while they welcome growth, they want it to happen without compromising the old western town charm that is their identity- and one of their strongest marketing tools.

"We see Huntsville's potential as the town that time forgot," Jeff Hyde who owns and operates Trappers Village downtown with wife Bonnie, said. "Visitors talk about how they feel like they've gone back in time. We want to preserve that atmosphere."

The Hydes are putting their money where their mouths are. They have purchased and refurbished several of Huntsville's historic buildings as part of their downtown tourist stop vision, while doing as much as possible to retain the original look.

Their restaurant, The Yukon Grille, was once the town post office. The Rendevous Lodge, which hosts receptions, wedding, reunions, and other meetings, was previously the notoriously pink-colored Heritage Inn.
Their most recently finished project, The Wild Plum gift shop, was originally a Forest Service cabin brought down in the 1940s by the Jolly Boys, a small group of local businessmen made locally famous by their penchant for Friday night poker games at a time when gambling was illegal.

"There are lots of stories in these walls," Jeff Hyde said of all the buildings on the now more than one-acre property.

As exposure increases for the Hydes, so does business. Actor Robert Redford chose Trapper's Village as the site of the photo shoot for the holiday edition of the Sundance catalog this year, and the Hydes expect a positive response as awareness of their project spreads.

The Hydes do most of the refurbishing by themselves, and are working to continue expanding Trapper's Village. They recently purchased the historic Woods Market, which was opened in 1897 by the Wood family, descendants of some of Huntsville's original settlers. They also bought the tiny cabin that was the Woods' first home.

"There's a lot of sweat equity in this project," Bonnie Hyde said. They also have experience, having worked in buying, remodeling and reselling Ogden homes for years. Their involvement in the ski industry has provided the necessary capital to make their dream of Trapper's Village a reality, she said. They are the Utah representatives for national outdoor clothing company Clucky & Co.

Jeff Hyde said after watching towns like Telluride, Colo., and Park City grow into major tourist destinations, he saw a great location and opportunity in Huntsville, though he doesn't think it should be modeled after those towns.

"This area has its own identity, and a very strong one," he said. "We can learn from other places without copying them. We like the small town charm here."

The Ogden Valley has long been Weber County's primary tourist destination, offering three ski areas and a smorgasbord of outdoor activities. The Winter Olympics brought awareness to Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, which spent decades in the shadows of their neighbor resorts to the south.

In response to strong growth, the Ogden Valley Business Association was established by about 25 local business people in April 2001 to provide a networking resource for valley businesses. Since then, its membership has grown to 85, including a dozen auxiliary members who are based outside Ogden Valley but are interested in doing business there.

Lisa Karam, vice chair and founding member of the OVBA as well as vice chair of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce, said the OVBA decided from the outset it would not involve itself in political matters.

"The main objective is to give valley businesses a voice and opportunities to network," she said. "We're not fighting over property rights or anything like that."

"It's great," Bonnie Hyde said. "It's small enough that we all pull for each other and promote our businesses together."

Because of Ogden Valley's high tourist appeal, the Ogden/Weber Convention and Visitor's Bureau was also compelled to join the association, CVB executive director Shelleice Stokes said.

"Doing business collectively increases our marketing strength in the county's fastest growing tourist area," she said. "The scenery, the open spaces, the farms, the Huntsville square - those are all very tangible selling points for us."
She said retreats and reunions are gaining in popularity, and Ogden Valley is an ideal site for such events.

Karam said the OVBA's objective is to sell local business to local residents rather than focus on attracting tourists, but still acknowledges the importance of tourism to the valley's economy.

"There's an amazing number of businesses here." She said among a total valley population of about 6,500, there are approximately 200 businesses currently operating, many of which are home-based. "We want local people to realize that there's a lot here, and they don't have to go to Ogden for everything."

Bonnie Hyde said she is amazed at the expansion in business opportunities in the valley since Trapper's Village opened just two years ago, and expects the trend to continue.

"We had no idea it would evolve like this when we started," she said. "The opportunities just keep coming up."

BRIAN NICHOLSON/Standard-Examiner

Mary Earley glances up at the ceiling
of the Wild Plum Gift Shop where
she works at the Trappers Village
in Huntsville.

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