In the 1840s, a persecuted religious group headed west, braving hostile Indian/Mexican territory so they could control their own destiny. The Mormons designed and built this grid city so that everyone coming could homestead and raise their own food away from the menacing factories and the industrial revolution. They voted for a more simple self-sufficient lifestyle by moving their feet westward.
Today that dream is a long-distant memory. The Wasatch Front is now a huge urban concrete jungle. Our parks and trails make up for our dystopian freeways. But we aren’t alone in our growing pains. Within the United States, a major western migration is still occurring. Most are coming for our great economy, plentiful jobs, and stunning outdoors. But I very often hear that Utah is a also a great place to raise kids. It is, if you can get them outside. More on that later.
Utah (to our benefit) has always been considered a little too weird for most Americans. It has traditionally drawn far fewer migrants than Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Austin.
But today, witnessing the building boom in downtown Salt Lake City, and across the entire Wasatch Front, it’s clear that more Americans are either on Instagram witnessing our massive Gay Pride Parade, or they are stopping by one of our Mighty Five Parks and realizing this place isn’t so weird after all.
Salt Lake City is finally experiencing what Denver experienced 15 years ago: an incredibly rapid influx of residents and an apartment building boom. Young, single residents want to live in a vibrant downtown, near the mountains. Who can blame them?
Why Are We Experiencing Greater Migration Now?
It seems more people than ever have recently been moving to Utah to take advantage of our affordable access to amazing mountains, rivers, lakes, snow and skiing. We have the best trails near a big city that I’ve ever witnessed.
The Wasatch allows for an alpine adventure just minutes away: Pineview (pictured on the cover) is a mountain lake that has sandy beaches and fishing just 20 minutes from Ogden.
But due to both our high birth rate and the huge influx of new residents, the lifestyle along the Wasatch Front is quickly changing: traffic jams, congestion, pollution, trail overuse, homelessness and open-air drug scenes are plaguing our weird little city. City planners, builders and state leaders need to adapt in a major way or our “quality” of life will go the way of other big cities: Portland, Seattle, San Francisco. So why are we emulating our big-city western neighbors?
Besides the housing shortage, the cost of commuting along our Wasatch Front just doubled with gas prices in under a year, we are ruining our health via our air, our lake is drying out which could result in arsenic in our airshed. It’s time for us to adapt our Wasatch Front cities to the reality of greater population density. We need to allow zoning changes for more bike paths, tiny homes and transit options: unaffordable housing cannot be the new normal.
Many of those who have lived here for years don’t want to see changes. So perhaps it’s time to become migrant nomads and find a better place to live that offers affordable housing and a slower pace of life. We have a story about how wonderful South American retirement is in this issue. Moving to suit lifestyle has become the new normal.
We moved to Murray from Sugar House to buy a larger home for our kids, and to “urban homestead”, planting a big garden in a much larger yard: soon we will have chickens and we will live off the fat of the land.
But we keep asking: where are the other kids? We rarely see them outside. Most are inside playing on gaming consoles. What happened to the neighborhood games of hide-and-go-seek? Kick the can? Where are the kids running around all day in the summer, as I did just 30 years ago? Am I the only one who finds this indoor summer TV watching phenomenon incredibly strange? “Free-range kids” were once the norm, but now they’re a weird phenomenon. Everyone needs to get outside and have fun. Get away from the screens! (except for when you are watching the Utah Stories Show).
In July we celebrate the fun we can have in the summer in Utah. Besides driving destinations, we highly recommend treking the Wasatch by transit and bike: check out the amazing Jordan River Parkway (and our video about it coming out soon). We will be offering videos and stories about the best bike paths along the Wasatch Front. Share with us your favorite trails all month by using the hashtag #Utahjulyfun.
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