SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – 3 million people call Utah home. By 2050 that number is expected to double. To prepare, Utahns sounded off on what they want to see the state look like 35 years from now.
Over 5 million people in the state in 35 years. Meaning double the people living, working, driving, and playing in the state than what we currently have right now in 2015.
That’s why Envision Utah gathered over 400 experts from across the state to identify 11 key areas concerning Utahns. These efforts took place within the last 2 years. Additionally, over 50,000 residents lent their voice for the kind of Utah they want to see.
The 11 categories that were identified were the following: air quality, agriculture, disaster resilience, education, energy, housing and cost of living, jobs and economy, public lands, recreation, transportation and communities, and water.
“Utahns want four things. They want beautiful, prosperous, and safe and healthy neighborly communities,” says Robert Grow, President of Envision Utah.
To make that happen, four cornerstones will take advantage of opportunities across the 11 topic areas. In response, these cornerstones will create powerful strategies that will improve the outcomes for multiple topics.
“You can achieve those by focusing on better communities and neighborhoods, rural Utah and economic health, buildings and cars, and other things that clean our air, and focusing on a better cleaner education system,” added Grow.
The first cornerstone concentrates on building a network of quality communities, which is what Utahns say they want the most.
When Utah was settled, the many towns and villages that made up the state were far and wide and usually centered around a town center. As the state grew these towns and villages blended and these centers struggled to survive.
“Utahns want to recapture the best of our past, they want to have close knit families. Places to live, raise a family, and there are ways and market trends to make that happen. Utahns want the kind of communities we had in the past,” says Grow.
By creating a wide range of centers that will host business, housing, shopping and other needs it will allow communities to remain close. making it shorter travel for people therefore less likely for them to utilize vehicles, which in turn improves our air quality.
Another thing Utahns want to see are these networks of centers connected by public transportation and roads, as well as an interconnected network of parks and trails and a variety of housing types.
Utahns are also concerned on where to build homes. They want to avoid areas that include high-risk locations which will make them vulnerable to disasters.
The second cornerstone concentrates on those homes,buildings, landscaping, and cars. Utahns want to build cost efficient and clean vehicles, and buildings for the future.
Items that can reduce air pollution, save money, make our homes, buildings, and infrastructure as stable enough to withstand disasters; and conserve water.
“One big surprise in this is people want the air to be clean. So making sure that our homes and cars will be clean for the future. Buildings will be the singles largest challenge for clean air,” adds Grow.
The third cornerstone concentrates on rural Utah.
“Rural Utah wants a stronger economy,” says Grow. “Where the industries and business become stronger over time so we can preserve the beauty and resources of Utah.”
Much of the focus of Utah’s prior strategies have been on the urbanized areas, although 90% of Utah consists of rural private and public lands.
Utahns want to focus on the following areas to see rural Utah succeed. They want to focus on creating a diverse economy. To focus on agriculture and food production to improve the state’s self-sufficiency, and allow Utah to eat healthy and use more locally grown foods. They also want to focus on recreation and tourism by expanding the number of recreational areas and improving access to outdoor areas as the demand for tourism grows. And finally they want to concentrate on responsible energy development and mining. Creating more efficient and renewable fuels.
“One thing is clear. The refineries will have to retool to produce cleaner gasoline, cleaner cars,” says Grow.
“When you do a plan like this you find gaps and one of the gaps is we don’t have a plan to increase recreational facilities as population doubles and tourists increase.”
The fourth and final cornerstone, which ties all the other three together, is education.
“They want to implement with stable secure funding, the best strategies possible to give every child a great education.”
Utahns believe everyone deserves an opportunity to receive the highest-level of education. To provide that opportunity the state needs to do the following. It needs a statewide long-range plan that adapts to local needs and implements strategies to accomplish education goals. It needs and deserves high-quality teachers and improved early childhood education. It also needs to have a way to assess and assist students to get them the help that they need.
While many of these things many cost some money, most can be done with the willingness and commitment to change.
“There are some things that will cost money,” says Grow, “But many don’t. Many just take a commitment and willingness to change and we saw ways for them to change in very important ways in the survey. We are confident Utahns are progressive and want to make these changes.”
You can learn more about the Envision Utah survey click here.