Over the past 17 years, I have lived all over Tooele Valley and I love it. There is a need for all kinds of housing in our valley and lucky for us, we have a large valley that enables us to have a wide variety of housing options.
In my 17 years here, I have used almost every kind of housing option and I am thankful for all of them and I have rubbed shoulders with wonderful people wherever I have lived and worked. The truly unique part of our valley is that in a matter of five minutes, we have just about every housing option available and also some very special options that aren’t available in Salt Lake Valley. These truly unique options are what I feel are at risk due to higher-density zoning changes in our county.
There is something beautiful and unique in the middle of our valley. It’s Erda. It isn’t too well known outside of Tooele. But we all know it. There are ball games on Tuesday and Thursday nights where Erda burgers are served thanks to Aunt Emma. I remember driving with my dad there as a little girl and being amazed at the green fields that looked like a waving ocean. I had never seen anything that green in my life. I asked him what it was and he laughed and said, “That’s Erda alfalfa.” I remember holding my breath because I had never seen anything so green and so beautiful. Sometimes I catch myself doing the same thing as I turn onto Erda Way and Droubay Road.
I know it’s spring in Erda when I can drive my children around to see the baby horses. Where in Salt Lake Valley can you do that and in a matter of five minutes see at least 10 baby horses? We decide on our favorites and drive out of our way to see “our” babies and check on their growth.
At so many recent commission meetings, we have been told that Erda needs to be rezoned to make way for higher-density neighborhoods. I have nothing against neighborhoods. In fact, I grew up in a great one, and had our first daughter in one of the best. But don’t we have enough room in this valley for traditional neighborhoods and also for non-traditional rural neighborhoods? We are one of the few places that have rural property left. Why don’t we think that is valuable? Why can’t our leaders hold fast under the pressure of developers and stand true to the zoning that is currently in place? Five-acre zoning aligns with current health regulations and allows for private wells and septic tanks. Our commissioners are always stating that we need diverse kinds of housing. Why doesn’t a 5-acre rural lot count as a diverse kind of housing option? Isn’t it? Doesn’t it fulfill a special need? That need is particularly special and poignant in my life.
I grew up in West Valley. When I was a senior in high school parts of my pancreas’ function failed. I went from over-achiever to barely surviving and losing every bit of strength in my body. After getting somewhat stable, I felt prompted that the only way I could fully recover was to get a horse. Horses have healing power but they also toughen you up, which is what I needed. So I turned in my city shoes for cowboy boots and I never looked back.
A year later my dad, my mom, my brother and I, decided we were going to build a house with property for our horses in Tooele County where my dad was born and raised. I am sure my dad’s Aunt Emma (Warr) said, “Bill, you need to come to Erda.” So we did. We already felt like we belonged there. And lucky for us, there was that unconventional housing for unconventional people who need horses (or cows or donkeys or chickens or maybe just extra space). Erda healed me in so many ways: The people, the space, the fields, the animals, and the resiliency and strength helped me to rebuild.
Please help me preserve Erda. It isn’t about big houses; it is about preserving our western heritage. If I could declare Erda a historical district, I would because our farmers should be protected and those choosing a rural lifestyle should be protected. There is plenty of space in our valley for much-needed neighborhoods filled with wonderful people, but please, can we keep a special place for Erda reserved for those beautiful hay fields and rural lots? Oh, they are needed too. I know firsthand just how necessary they are!
Please find out more about the referendums and where to sign them at 7KforTooeleCounty FB Page. Let’s put the development of our county back in the hands of the people. This isn’t against developers or development; this is about slowing down and doing things right for Tooele. Let’s not be the next Herriman or South Jordan! There should always be time to do things right and with thoughtfulness.
Margie Dimond is a resident of Erda who has an Elementary Education Degree. She taught homeless students at an inner-city school in Salt Lake City for five years. Each year she would bring students to her home in Erda to experience rural life.