What do you want on your mountain top?
While the development on the Traverse Mountains that separate Utah and Salt Lake counties does not generally directly affect the citizens of Carbon County, we all should ponder the changes that are taking place along the Wasatch Front, and how ultimately the result of those changes will affect each and every one of us.
As a boy growing up in Murray, I always found the clear tops of the mountains that surrounded the Salt Lake Valley as an inspiration. While a busling, busy (but much smaller then) city sprawled out below, the mountains that surrounded the valley seemed untouched, in fact beyond touch in many ways. The only thing that really scarred any of those mountains was the Kennocott Copper Mine southwest of my home. But that in itself was almost a beautiful thing because of it's immensity.
I remember in my teenage years riding dirt bikes in and around the Traverse Mountain area. A lot of it was off limits because it was private property, but still it's canyons rising through it's low profile as compared to soaring Lone Peak were an image I can never forget.
While in high school and shortly after I also went to the Widow Maker Motorcycle Hill Climbs every year. They were held at Steep Mountain in the Traverse Range, just south of I-15 and the Utah State Prison. It was the toughest motorcycle climb in the world until the 1970s when people consistently started going over the top. Eventually the race was discontinued largely because of roundy crowds that attended the event and also a hint that environmental concerns were starting to crop up concerning the race.
In the late 1970's I approached the owner of a piece of property near Corner Canyon, asking about selling it so I could build a house there. He was willing to sell, but when I checked with Draper City about the possibility of changing the zoning to build there I was told by the mayor himself that "property in that area and along the Traverse Mountains will never be developed" because Draper wanted to keep it's little town feel and they didn't want a lot of growth above town.
It's amazing how things, and attitudes, can change in 20 years. In the mid-1990's I began to wish I had bought that piece of property despite the fact I couldn't build on it at the time. The values there zoomed as plans to build Suncrest Drive, the road that now transits between Draper and the outskirts of Alpine, was being announced.
A couple of weeks ago I drove across Suncrest Drive, just to look at all the growth. The homes there are beautiful and the views spectacular. It used to be you had to climb to the top of Timpanogos or Lone Peak to see a view of both valleys; now you can take a leisurely drive to the top of the Traverse Range and see both sides at once. Some people that live there can see Happy Valley from the front of their house and the Great Salt Lake from the back.
There are a lot of individuals, however, who opposed this development, for various reasons. Development always seems to bring out some opposition, and I see that as a good thing because it makes us all think about what we are doing with any particular space or piece of land. But much of the property was private land, and in my book an owner should be able to do with his property as he pleases as long as it doesn't cause a public nuisance.
However when I stand in my dad's back yard today I have to think back about on clear days when I was a kid and I used to stare at that east to west range of hills and imagine the wildlife and the solitude one could find there. The Wasatch Mountains themselves are seeing houses climb up them farther and farther each year, but the houses on the tops of the Traverse Range now broadcast their existence on a smogless day to everyone who can see that far.
Development and growth are good for a community or an area, but sometimes I have to wonder if what we lose when it happens is worth the cost. I once lived in southwestern Utah and all some people there wanted to see was more growth and development. I told those I knew that, true growth would bring more jobs, but having lived in a number of major citys, there is a tradeoff between lifestyle and growth. Some say that you can have both in a quality form, but my experience is that one is almost always degraded in some form for the other. If no growth happens, the young move away to find jobs. If growth goes on, the traffic, smog and less solitude seems to accompany it.
Our county has been in a downward spiral in terms of population since the early 1950's when the census said their was over 40,000 people living here. Now we are below 20,000, but the population is more concentrated in the central part of the county than in those days. At some point in time that will reverse, and this place with it's hard working and good people will be seen as a prime location for some type of business enterprise. When that happens however, it will mean more people coming into the area, more homes being built and certainly some accompanying concerns by those who live here at the time.
As we look for business to come here we need to consider what a mesa top is worth or what a hill without a structure upon it brings to the ambience of our area. Let's look at the overall good of our county and consider what the future will be like for others who follow us.