The first phase of a project to help Grand County communities unite and take charge of their future has been completed and a report published for public review.
The 27-page report, "Grand County Looks at Itself: A Self Appraisal," presents findings and lists action priorities based on comments at a town meeting and 15 subsequent neighborhood meetings conducted early this year in the Grand County cities of Moab, Thompson, Elgin and Castle Valley.The report was compiled by researcher Craig Bigler as part of the "Moab at the Crossroads" project the Canyonlands Field Institute launched in January in an effort to clarify what residents want the future to bring to the rural communities of Grand County.
Moab City, the county, the Moab Chamber of Commerce, the town of Castle Valley, the Grand County School District and Grand County Chapter of the Utah League of Women Voters are cooperating in the project with CFI, a private, non-profit educational organization.
The second phase will begin in February with a series of open workshops focusing on the theme, "Vision for the Future," in which participants will be asked to prepare recommendations for managing impacts from growth.
Bigler said this week nothing particularly surprising came out of the first series of meetings, but it is apparent people's attitudes about change are changing.
"What's new is the acceptance. One year ago, people were arguing (that) people aren't willing to accept what's happening,"
he said. "Last winter we found, to the contrary, that people are really looking forward instead of backward."
In a synopsis of the main report, Bigler said the mining community still yearns for federal policies to revive extraction industries. Meanwhile, the post-mining economy is asserting itself through tourism and outdoor recreation.
He said there is a new sense of economic opportunity and excitement in the community, stemming from the achievement of earlier goals and emergence of Moab as a tourist destination.
But Moab is not prepared to deal with the changes.
"We can't stop change or determine what will happen, but let's manage the impacts. We're ill-equipped to do it," Bigler said.
It was clear from the meetings that people don't want Moab to become another Aspen, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., Jackson Hole, Wyo., or St. George, Bigler wrote. He said visitors from those areas warn that congestion, higher taxes, corruption in the community and environmental degradation come with growth and wealth - unless change is carefully managed from the start.
Bigler said change usually is accommodated through crisis management. Local government must start managing for change now, not later at the mercy of some developer, a single industry, or cycles of boom and bust, he wrote.