Laurie Hurst never could have foreseen herself heading a community effort to save a local landmark.
Heck, she didn’t even see herself staying in her hometown as an adult.
But Hurst, 41, has become a visible champion of the Clark Historic Farm and historical preservation in Grantsville, and her efforts have earned her the title of the Transcript Bulletin’s 2014 Person of the Year.
Born and raised in Grantsville, Hurst graduated from Grantsville High School and went to Brigham Young University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in conservation biology. Along the way, she married her high school sweetheart, Brad Hurst.
The couple briefly moved back to Grantsville to purchase and restore her grandmother’s 1900s-era home, but soon moved to Mexico for Brad’s job, supervising the construction of an LDS temple there.
“We were running away,” Hurst said. “We thought we didn’t want anything to do with Grantsville.”
Being far from home, though, brought perspective, she said. In a foreign country and, later, settled in Cache Valley, the couple would reminisce about the things unique to Grantsville — the Grantsville Sociable, the high school’s junior promenade, the immense pride amid the whole community that surrounded sporting events.
While pursuing a master’s degree in landscape architecture at Utah State University, which involved going to various sites throughout the state and making designs based on local geography and settlements, Hurst said she realized even more acutely how much local buildings and landmarks can impact a community.
“Our responsibility there was to find out what was unique in each place,” she said. “We were supposed to use that uniqueness to build something specific to that town.”
As the couple grew older and their family grew, so did their desire to put down roots, she said, and, in a surprising sense, to return home.
“Brad and I have always wanted to be a part of the community,” she said. “We thought, ‘why don’t we go back to Grantsville and do that in a place we love and give back to the community that raised us?’”
A little over five years ago, they did just that.
Hurst said when the cemetery issue originally came before the Grantsville City Council in November 2010, her focus was more on raising her young children than being involved in municipal affairs. However, when she was told part of the farm was slated to become the city’s expanded burial ground, she felt compelled to spring into action, no matter how late she was in the game.
When her early efforts gleaned limited success, she began gathering signatures of other residents who disagreed with the city’s plan. In a few of those like-minded citizens, she said, she discovered new friends with similar passions and drive, including Susan Johnsen, Lisa Nelson and Penny Anderson.
In May 2013, the Friends of the Clark Farm was formed, and has since gained a designation as a 501c3 charitable organization. In that time, the group has sponsored dozens of activities and events.
Hurst said she feels the community has responded so well to the efforts to promote and preserve history with the Clark Historic Farm, and other landmarks of Grantsville’s heritage, because the residents of the town have a desire to remember their roots. Also in the community memory is regret for the loss of the Old Opera House, which was torn down in 1951.
Hurst, who has done extensive research on the Old Opera House, said she became involved with the Clark Historic Farm in part because of the loss of the iconic opera house.
“I think looking back at it, [the residents] would have done things differently, and worked harder to preserve it. I think that’s where we are now with the Clark Farm,” she said. “If we don’t put effort into it, it’s going to fall into disrepair. We’re trying to save a place that’s important to Grantsville.”
Hurst said she believes the efforts of the group are important in the present, but even more so in the future, not only with the farm but with all of the town’s historical markers and monuments.
“I think there’s a lot to be learned about [Grantsville]’s history. Every town has a unique history,” she said.
“I wanted to remember that I wanted my children to remember that.”
As for becoming a sort of spokesperson for the effort — a role Hurst has tried to avoid in part by asking that media talk to other members of the board for specific events — Hurst said it’s perhaps a less savory part of the crusade, but it may be a necessary one to help others understand why the group’s mission matters.
“I’d rather be invisible. I hate being in the public eye. I hate seeing my name in the paper,” she said. “But if it will help people understand why we’re doing this and why this is important, I guess I’m OK with that.