They don't call it "Happy Valley" for nothing.

Utah County residents seem pleased that most of the communities have been able to keep a somewhat rural atmosphere, while accommodating residential influx from other states.In a Dan Jones and Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News between Dec. 5 and Dec. 10, Utah County residents said they like the nice and friendly people in their neighborhoods as well as the rural or small-town atmosphere found in many of its communities.

Jones asked 401 Utah County residents what they liked most and least about Utah County. The largest group of respondents, 15 percent, said they like the people, whom they described as "nice" or "friendly."

Just ask Rulon Gammon, whose family lives in Vineyard and owns and operates a dairy farm in one of the county's most rural communities.

"There's not a better place in the world to live than Utah County," said Gammon, who still lives in the same house that he was born in 54 years ago. "I sure think we're lucky to have a county where everyone still likes each other, and acts that way."

In Vineyard, residents live within 15 minutes of major shopping malls and still are part of a largely farming community.

"We're lucky to have things this way," Gammon said. "Agriculture still plays a large part in Utah County's economy, and for that, you've got to have a rural atmosphere."

What else do residents like about Utah County? After the people and the rural atmosphere, there is no clear-cut consensus. Respondents listed 25 other reasons to like Happy Valley. Among the things they like are the mountains, job opportunities, proximity to recreational and shopping areas and the schools.

But not everything about Utah County gets rosy reviews. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they don't like the valley's air-pollution problems. Utah County has violated federal health standards for two pollutants - fine particulates, or PM10, and carbon monoxide.

Sam Rushforth, a BYU professor and co-founder of the Utah County Clean Air Coalition, said he wasn't surprised at the results.

"In fact, from my experience, that's probably lower than it really is," Rushforth said. "Most everyone here is concerned about the air-pollution problem, especially if they've lived through one of our winters."

The problems are worsened by a growing populace and heavy industry, which lead to "serious wintertime inversions," he said.

"You get stagnant air for two or three days and you've really got a problem," Rushforth said. "We're at the mercy of meteorological conditions in a lot of cases."

Both the state and county are working on plans to reduce carbon-monoxide pollution. And Utah County continues an oxygenated fuel program that is intended to reduce levels of carbon monoxide emitted by vehicles.

Despite his concern about the air-quality issue, Rushforth also said he agrees with most of the respondents and he likes Utah County.

"Somebody got (the results) right," he said.

Others, 14 percent of them, said the county is getting too crowded and that there is too much growth for their liking. Utah County, its north and sound ends in particular, has seen spurts of residential growth since Money magazine named the Provo/Orem metropolis as its No. 1 place to live in 1991.

Among the magazine's reasons for placing the area so high was the high quality of life and low crime, which poll respondents also mentioned as things they like about the county.

The area has slipped in Money's Top 10, but the listing continues to boost the county's image.

Some Utah County residents aren't at all critical of their home. Three percent said they like everything about Utah County, while 17 percent said they couldn't think of anything they disliked about the valley.

And despite concerns about traffic and air pollution, the respondents found no clear consensus concerning their dislikes. Their negative concerns were spread among two dozen issues.

"It's no surprise that so many people are coming to live in Utah County - it's a wonderful place to live," Gammon said. "But anyone who's lived here for a few years already knows that."

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Additional Information

Utah County poll

What do you like most about Utah County?

People/Nice people/Friendly people 15%

Small town/Rural/Small town atmosphere 9%

Mountains/ Wasatch Mountains 8%

Low crime/lower crime rate 6%

Calm/quiet/peaceful 6%

BYU/Close to BYU/Access to events at BYU 5%

What do you like least about Utah County?

Pollution/Air Pollution/ Smog 21%

Nothing/No complaints/ I like everything 17%

Overcrowded/too many people/growth 14%

Traffic/traffic problems/too much traffic 9%

Geneva Steel 4%

Poll conducted Nov. 29-30, 1994. Margin of error + - 4.01% on interviews of 605 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret news and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.