Clearfield City has seen more than its fair share of negative press. Searching for Clearfield on Utah’s major news sites yields stories of crime, the city buying a trailer park out from under residents, and city officials demanding that a woman remove an artistic statement (a VW bug in a tree) from her own property. While there is a positive side to each of these stories—Clearfield police officers working to uplift residents, the city promising to compensate trailer park residents when they do eventually need to move, and officials working to meet the needs of every citizen—the headlines highlight the negative.
I grew up in Davis County, so as a teenager I was well aware of the biases against Clearfield in both the news and local attitudes. It was only when I became a Clearfield City employee—a lifeguard at the local pool—that I caught a glimpse of what those negative voices ignored.
Clearfield’s ten-year strategic plan, “Vision 2020,” outlines the city’s efforts to continue improving the lives of its citizens. This includes a focus on economic development, increased opportunities in the arts and recreation, emergency preparedness, and quality of life for Clearfield residents.
In the eight years since the city introduced this plan, they have made strides to accomplish all of these goals. New businesses have moved in, city employees have taken advanced emergency preparedness training, the old city hall building has turned into the new Clearfield Community Arts Center, and residents can now take advantage of more programs and classes than ever.
Some of the most visible successes have occurred at the Clearfield Aquatic and Fitness Center, an impressive facility a few blocks south of the city offices. I recently spoke to Donna Russell, the center’s manager (and my first boss) about her experience with the city. She described the particular challenges the Parks and Recreation Department faces: “In periods of economic downturn, recreation programs are often the first to get cut. But what we do is really essential.” To help critics see the truth about their town and programs, department employees embraced a new motto: “Telling our Story.”
As Donna told me some of the stories to come out of the center and the city programs it hosts, it was clear that they were making a difference for residents of all ages.
To keep membership affordable for low-income families, Clearfield offers scholarships and discounted rates for city residents. They have also partnered with the Silver Sneakers program to offer free memberships to participating senior citizens. And a membership gets you more than just gym and pool access; it makes you part of a family. Donna says, “Our instructors are amazing. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve come and said, “will you sign this card? Someone’s husband passed away or her aunt’s having surgery, or her dog died. They care about their class.”
The city programs are also helping young citizens prepare to be successful, healthy, and happy. City recreation leagues get kids moving and teach them healthy habits. The recreation department also trains and employs dozens of young people every year. Donna explained, “the lifeguards that come here, this is their first job. So we get to teach them what work is—show up, show up on time, and show up with a good attitude.”
Discounted swimming lessons save the lives of Clearfield city residents each year. One of the young girls in the Jr. Lifeguard program was waterskiing with her father when he was knocked unconscious. She used her training to pull him to safety. A child who had taken swim lessons from one of the center’s most experienced instructors fell off a houseboat, out of reach of any adults. Her father began to panic, until she calmly rolled over and swam back to the boat. He told his wife, “Whatever you’re paying for those swim lessons, keep paying for them.”
So next time you see negative press about this often misunderstood city, remember that there are thousands of residents whose lives are getting better every day because there is much more to Clearfield than the headlines.