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Participate in ‘Envision’ process

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Anyone feeling disenfranchised as the new year gets under way amid presidential impeachment and the Olympic scandal still has a voice in something vitally important -- Utah's future.

This weekend, 580,000 households in the northern part of the state will receive inserts in the mail or in their newspapers, including this one. The four-page surveys conducted by Envision Utah will solicit input on preferred plans for managing growth heading into a new century and millennium. Widespread public participation is vital so planners and politicians can help guide growth the best way possible.Admittedly, steering the state -- particularly the Wasatch Front -- any single direction is unlikely as the future unfolds. The fact that survey responses are not binding upon any governmental entity may cause some to pooh-pooh the effort. That is a short-sighted, fatalistic response.

Leaving growth completely to chance is a choice that puts Utah's coveted quality of life at risk. As the state fills in, it won't do much good to look back with 20-20 hindsight and realize something different should have been done earlier. The fact is input does count.

Envision Utah, whatever its flaws, is a grand exercise in democracy. Chairman Bob Grow optimistically hopes 100,000 to 200,000 surveys are returned over the next couple of weeks. Imagine the feedback that would provide leaders, developers and others in positions to influence growth patterns.

A more realistic expectation is closer to 20,000, or 3 percent of the inserts distributed, will be returned. That would certainly help, but more input would be better.

Envision Utah provides an opportunity to ascertain the will of the people, It gives citizens leverage if politicians fail to implement their wishes. The Wasatch Front's population is project to explode from 1.6 million to 5 million over the next 50 years and should not fill in haphazardly.

Utahns should welcome the opportunity to help shape growth by answering a few questions and participating in 50 town meetings held statewide Tuesday. It ought to be considered an obligation of citizenship. There is too much at stake to ignore it.