Salt Lake City: Is this still the place?

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, Learning from Las Vegas, in a special issue about the Great Basin.

"This is the place," Brigham Young proclaimed when he first saw the Salt Lake Valley. To the Mormon leader it seemed a divinely inspired refuge for his persecuted Latter-day Saints.

These days, Salt Lake City advertises itself with the Olympic slogan, "The world is welcome here." Winning a bid to host the Olympics in 2002 is Salt Lake City's mission for the new millennium. The city boasts that it's outpacing Denver both as a regional hub for services such as hospitals and banking and as a ski destination. Four major ski areas lie within a half-hour drive from downtown.

"Believe it or not, Salt Lake City has a lot more in common with Las Vegas than with Denver," says Ted Wilson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and author of Utah's Wasatch Front. "Utah has a very promotive culture. The industry is different. We sell snow; They sell gambling. But the resident population of Las Vegas is quite similar to Salt Lake. If you strip away the tourists from Las Vegas, it is a pretty staid, stable, conservative community."

Throughout the 1980s, Utah's high birth rate and stagnant economy pushed thousands of people out of the state each year. But during the 1990s, people started moving in at the rate of about 22,000 each year. While mining, military, aerospace and manufacturing have been in a slow but steady decline, Utah has touted its low wages and central Western location in order to attract computer software makers. The results have been mixed, but recreation and tourism have boomed.

Now, some residents worry the world is coming too quickly to their kingdom. "We still feel a lot of what Brigham Young was looking for when he said this was the place," says writer Brooke Williams, who is a direct descendent of the Mormon pioneer. "We feel safe in this big valley. The more people find out, the shorter it will be a great place." Along the Wasatch Front, where more than 80 percent of Utah's 1.9 million residents live, the Williams family business - laying pipeline and plumbing - has prospered. Still, Brooke Williams has second thoughts about growth.

"I call it cultural pollution," he says. "I think people are entitled to close the door behind them. What's wrong with wanting to keep a place you love from changing?"

High Country News Classifieds
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • TRUSTEE AND PHILANTHROPY RELATIONS MANGER,
    Come experience Work You Can Believe In! The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is seeking a Trustee and Philanthropy Relations Manager. This position is critical to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    -The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region- The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful, complex, diverse,...
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    Position will remain open until January 31, 2021 Join Our Team! The New Mexico Land Conservancy (NMLC) is a non-profit land trust organization dedicated to...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Organize with Northern Plains Resource Council to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Starts $35.5k. Apply now- northernplains.org/careers