Over the past couple months as an intern writing for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin, I have learned a great deal about the people in Tooele County and how they feel about hot button issues that seem to be imminent and rapidly developing. Namely, those relating to the growth and development of the county’s population.
In most of my articles, the focal points generally revolve around construction projects, housing developments and other indications of an influx of new residents to the area. Some opinions I’ve heard from people who embrace the changes, some reluctantly so, but most locals seem to be wary of change — especially when they feel it will impose on their lifestyle.
As someone who grew up in the suburbs of Phoenix’s massive metropolis, I always met growth with a bit of excitement. Whether it was a three-story library, or a minor league baseball stadium, the prospect of new things to do and places to go were welcomed additions. So the concept of an urban sprawl didn’t bother me.
Throughout my adolescence, I never understood the appeal of living in small towns, even though I ended up residing in my fair share of them. It seemed most small towns had many dirt roads that easily turned to mud, sidewalks were rarity and the air, in certain places, smelled like cow and horse feces.
However, for those who were born and raised in small, rural areas such as Tooele County, these elements are more preferable to the smog and congestion of big cities. Country life has a certain idyllic sense of freedom — something with which they would never want to part.
My experiences with small towns were fleeting moments in time, interrupted by my frequent wanderlust that led me to nearly all corners of the United States. Meanwhile, all I was longing for was a bigger town in which to live.
Then I found myself living in Taylorsville, Utah.
After I got married in 2013, my wife and I moved into our first apartment in Taylorsville and, at first, we loved the location. We had shopping centers down the road from us, a Best Buy less than 15 minutes away — a must for me — and Salt Lake City was just as close.
Despite all these amenities, things became nerve-racking as the crime level seemed to be too frequent and too close to our home. Any time we flipped on the news, a new report of a stabbing in Taylorsville happened seemingly every day. Once, my wife came to me in a panic after watching a story about someone being stabbed just down the road from us.
We had had enough, so Tooele became our landing spot.
Since I’ve moved back, my writing has changed immensely and the people I reach out to are more passionate than anyone I’ve ever met in larger cities.
Whether I’m covering a highway project, or a rezoning that has the potential to add more housing, residents have shown a commitment to retaining the landscape they’ve known for their entire existence.
This passion doesn’t stop with the lifetime residents either. Plenty of transplants from the Wasatch Valley and beyond profess a love for the rural life and feel just as threatened by extreme growth as everyone else.
It’s apparent that the want for a plot of land with multiple acres is in demand like never before, but there’s evidence it might not be as realistic as it was just a few years back.
Additionally, in my experiences speaking to local leaders, there is an understanding of this anxiety and a sympathy towards those who feel apprehension. Both mayors in Grantsville and Tooele have lived in their respective towns for many years, but recognize the inevitability of expansion. In light of this, the leadership is promoting responsible growth that accommodates new residents while respecting the space many have held dear.
A prime example of this was the conundrum surrounding a potential temple and housing development in Erda. Erdans worried that such an installment would bring smaller lots that were incompatible with Erda’s lifestyle and traffic the location isn’t yet prepared for. In addition to A group of Erda residents filed a referendum that challenged the higher density development adjacent to the temple property.
Eventually The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints agreed to withdraw their plan and moved the temple to a more manageable area in Tooele.
I’ve learned that the history and heritage in Tooele County is abundant and the stories that go along with it is invaluable. Personally, I may not ever be able to shake the “city slicker” mindset, but my appreciation for the rural side of town has grown.
Ultimately no one is resistant to change, but there is a desire for compromise and enshrining a location which provides the lifestyle frontiersmen and pioneers carved out over a century ago.