COMMENTARY: “Go Away, We Miss Horses”

Marc K. Ensign has been active in community and business affairs for many years, and lives in Paradise.

This sign appeared over this past weekend next to a multi-unit housing development in Hyrum. Although there is never justification for vandalism, its message seems to capture the sentiment of many valley residents who have found themselves in a wake of expansion they don’t like or understand.

Cache Valley is facing challenges related to growth that is unprecedented in our history. From less than adequate housing and personal income to aging roads and infrastructure, demands on our natural resources, water, and land, and the needs of an increasingly diverse population, the county-wide growth plan developed 13 years ago has quickly become obsolete.

At the time, it seemed adequate, visionary, and comprehensive. Taking ideas from the drawing board to the real world, however, is charged with setbacks, re-directs, and “play-by-play audibles”. No one could have anticipated the crush of development that would envelop us so quickly.

In response to the posted sign in Hyrum, Facebook blew up with comments like “Cache Valley is no longer rural!” or “Pretty soon all the farmland will be gone!” Someone blamed farmers for selling their land to developers. Another replied, “Don’t blame the farmers, blame those who issue the permits!” The developer posted, defending his right to make a living.

Instead of arguing and complaining, let’s do something productive. Cache Valley has not outgrown its residents, and we are not helpless as some may feel. What can we do? What can YOU do?

For the past 18 months, Cache County has been working on a revised and updated growth plan in answer to the valley’s changing demographics. “Imagine Cache” was chartered to represent county stakeholder’s (residents, landowners, and businesses) desires for steering valley growth and development over the next 20 years. It’s a “community audible” where you and I can weigh in.

It’s a blueprint that will be used by county and city planners and zoners, the Cache Metro Planning Organization, the Urban and Rural Areas Assessment and Cost of Services Plan, as well as the Regional Collaboration Plan.

I recently spoke with Lauren Ryan, the director of Imagine Cache. A key provision of the plan is gathering public input related to growth, development, agriculture, housing, and economic expansion. The period for this feedback began on September 3rd and is scheduled to end on September 19th. So far, only 230 surveys have been submitted, and only a handful of comments have been received. In a valley of now over 130,000 residents, less than .002 of the population has responded. The guy from India calling about your car’s extended warranty gets better results.

Surely the problem is not apathy but awareness. Had you heard of Imagine Cache? Did you know it was asking for public comment? Tell your friends, family, and neighbors. Use social media as a bull horn. Let’s get the word out before the window closes.

Short of public direction, our valley’s future will be left to politicians, consultants, and developers to decide. Is that what we want? Helpfully, Lauren agreed to extend the deadline past the 19th until the end of September in the hope of gathering more responses. Instead of vandalism and laments, invest a few minutes of your time in our collective future and respond to Imagine Cache.

Here is the link:  imaginecache.com/get-involved

Take the survey (about 5 minutes) where you’ll answer 11 questions. There are five places where you can leave a comment (make sure you hit ‘submit’ at the end to have your responses recorded).  You can also email a comment to Lauren directly at: lauren.ryan@cachecounty.org. In addition, there is a land-use map on the website where you can give feedback and input. See the plan for your community, and see if you like it.

As you ponder your input and wonder where to start, consider these observations:

– Growth should be proactively steered, never reactively managed. The arbiter of growth should always be the infrastructure necessary to support it. We simply cannot grow faster than we have strength. Residents in Hyde Park called for a moratorium on building permits this summer as their wells dried up. Hyrum’s power grid has been overwhelmed of late, trying to keep pace with new construction.

– For many who have settled here, maintaining our rural heritage and lifestyle is paramount. There are effective ways to limit the land grab as cities annex county land for development, and compete for limited resources. Mitigating ordinances require developers to replace each acre lost to construction with an off-setting acre of open space. The voluntary down-zoning of large land parcels, moving back from a high-density zone, ripe for development, to a lower density one can be negotiated with property owners.

– Conservation Easements are a win-win for everyone. They protect the land from development and preserve it for specific uses. A good example is the recent placement of 47 acres along the Logan River into an easement for public walking and biking trails.

– Any growth plan should protect our individual community identities…they are what make Cache Valley unique.

– Housing development should look to the future to consider the forecast economic stability of the region. With higher-paying jobs, we can maintain our neighbors at a better housing standard than lower-income, multi-family developments. Are current plans in response to historically low Cache Valley wages? They could be short-sighted, leaving behind a future overbuild of high-density construction. A jobs plan should first direct any growth plan.

– Is high-density housing better served in urban locations, where commercial, government and personal services are more readably available to these residents? Are you opposed to urban development in rural areas?

– Wherever possible, redevelopment should be considered before expansion. The conservation of land is a good alternative to expansion and makes us better stewards.

Talking with Gina Worthen, the Chair of the Cache County Council, I wondered if the lack-luster response to Imagine Cache’s request for public input had anything to do with residents feeling their voice doesn’t really matter.  Gina assured me that the county is anxious for public input, and is committed to draw the plan’s conclusions from it. In fact, Gina suggested that since the council will have to approve the final plan, comments could be sent to her, along with the other Council member’s emails. Here is their link: cachecounty.org/countycouncil/

I don’t need to tell you that Cache Valley is a special place, and worth our every effort to preserve. In the near future, the public’s response to Imagine Cache will be published and shared. We will be hard-pressed to complain about the outcome if we didn’t contribute to it. It’s time to put down the torches and pitchforks and pick up the pen.

Marc K. Ensign

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23 Comments

  • Marc K Ensign September 10, 2021 at 12:29 pm Reply

    One correction. I am not responsible for the photo. That credit goes to Dan Hansen.

  • Felicia September 10, 2021 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Im tired of seeing these ugly apartment complexes and new housing developments taking up land a d being put in the most awful places. As well as these huge ass new building. Blocking the mountain views. If we wanna keep cache valley vast and beautiful then people need to speak up and take the survey.

  • Chandler Smith September 11, 2021 at 3:17 am Reply

    Keep Cache Valley beautiful

  • S.F. September 11, 2021 at 4:47 am Reply

    Great input, BUT no one is reading this. I mean, the ones who need to read it, are not. You said, “I wondered if the lack-luster response to Imagine Cache’s request for public input had anything to do with residents feeling their voice doesn’t really matter.” Most of these people who have resided here if not all their life, will never react to your description of “lack-luster.” I know people who’d read that sentence and wonder what the heck you meant or worse off, that you are offending them.

    One thing you got right….”It’s time to put down the torches and pitchforks.” This is something that has been apart of Utah history since the beginning, the instinct to pick up torches and pitchforks. It’s embedded in the history of the state, and because Cache Valley is considered one of the last of the last…people have not been taught how to adapt. You wrote this long outline, but Cache Valley was not taught to have leaders, but instead to follow a leader. Most people have been conditioned to “wait” and hear what someone else tells them to do. They don’t want to put input, they want to be lead and unfortunately the same people in charge were raised the same.

    We put these people in charge to expand their imagination in making our community better, but adaptable to “OUR” liking. When I say “OUR,” I mean “them.” I’ve been in the Valley for almost 10 years and I see the mistakes being made and the silence that goes with it, because no one knows what do say, when to say it and how to say it. Lets look at Richmond, Utah. Lees Marketplace has been sitting for how long…how long to build a grocery store? While everyone sat on this keeping mum in the community about growth and what it would bring (new citizens who may be more keen to expansion and newer ideas), Richmond boasted about turning a corner lot (in front of a church) Into a food truck stop. Where would you park? You can’t park on the highway…? Just sheer utter ignorance. Lets not even bring up the resistance by local residents on Cherry Creek ski resort when it was suggested.

    People from Preston, who don’t shop at Stokes will go to Lees Marketplace. Will Julies Marketplace in Lewiston be stamped out? People are wondering about these issues and still they can’t get their downtown main street to look presentable in inviting new mind to reside in their community. We are scattered about, but one does not think about those areas that fear the growth and the invasion of those who have more experience in expansion and making the towns better.

    THIS IS OUR VALLEY.

    The sign posted said, “GO AWAY…WE MISS OUR HORSES.” That person could have wrote a commentary such as yours, but it’s obvious their patience and tolerance cannot be put into words as you have printed. As I will mention again and again, MOST of the residents don’t give their horses the care they need, but they miss their horses. These are the residents of this community: Stiffed and stuffed with silence, afraid to complain in a louder manner, lest their leaders knock on their door and tell them to simmer down. Meanwhile we are so worried about downtown, a place that most don’t visit on a daily basis.

    The rhetoric with Logan wanting to build the new Benson Biosolids facility (https://www.hjnews.com/news/government/somebodys-backyard-benson-residents-cry-foul-as-logan-hopes-to-build-biosolid-composting-facility/article_df62e2d7-5fd3-5b86-b17b-697a2c1488b0.html) puts a dent in the distrust of citizens. WHY would they want to fill out a survey when they feel, Logan city has purchased property in their back yard….for Logan use. Logan doesn’t put the facility back in their yard.

    THIS IS THE MAJOR PROBLEM. People feel, other people don’t care about them. The south is growing (it seems) faster than the north, but it will come and this will never end. Cache Valley will become Salt Lake Valley…it’s inevitable. The airport wants to expand, MAJOR warehouse ports are being building out that way…jobs jobs jobs. JBS had to recruit outside the state for workers and other companies are doing the same, offering 1500 bonuses to new employees if they come reside in Cache Valley. And they are coming…..different minds, different cultures…things Utah has always tried to push out (since the 1800s), now the push is stronger and people sense it.

    11 years ago, there was an article urging people to fill out the census. Lynn Lemon stated, “I people are angry at the government, not sending in the census form is not a good way to get even.” I can’t believe someone has to tell people this!!!! THIS IS THE PROBLEM. (https://www.cachevalleydaily.com/news/archive/2010/04/01/3d9ee951-bf0d-5a36-8b55-421f5864d80d/#.YTyBFC2ZNBw).

    The greatest problem is Cache Valley does not make it’s citizens feel they can depend on them for expansion. We look at Willow Park and say…”Well we have a park..we don’t need a new one,” still the majority of Cache Valley citizens DO NOT frequent the park on a regular basis. The reason….its dry…dull, it does not offer much. Why can’t we look at liberty park in Salt lake? Better food, better activities, thing to bring everyone out.

    We build a dog park right next to a water way that’s been going through major transformations for years. a dog park with urine that definitely flows downward. How close is the park to the water? Pretty close. These are your leaders, lacking creative intent for a better livelihood.

    Felicia is tired of seeing new apartment complexes and new course develops because she can’t see the mountains. Most residents who live here, are so use to the mountains, they don’t even look onward. They don’t hike, they don’t ride horses, and those who are tired of seeing new development but want horses don’t implement the correct care for the horses that are out there. They’re like dogs in front yards. Look at the county fair grounds and the facility set aside for renting stables…..deplorable!!! And the reason is…they are waiting for someone to teach them, to explain to them in a manner they can comprehend. This does not happen, but instead surprising announcements with pictures of what could be.

    Cache Valley residents are not leaders. This is a fact. We need leaders who have unlimited imagination, looking onward for our children and their children, instead of standing stilt toeds when a great idea comes up.

    Stop wasting money to impress the un-impressed and we’ll expand.

    13 years ago…now a new format for the next 20 and after that…what? NOTHING!

    The council is all flashy presentations with no real focus for the future. They are just winging it and people feel if they put their input, it will surely get rammed back at them, because a plan has already been formed, but the leaders who formed it, have no idea if the plan will work.

    • Struggling Mom September 11, 2021 at 12:49 pm Reply

      You are completely right. I absolutely loved your comment.

    • Blayne September 11, 2021 at 9:39 pm Reply

      I’m sure glad idiots like you aren’t in power. Did you ever pause to think Cache Valley doesn’t want to be like California or Salt Lake? Most of live here because we despise that lifestyle. Get off your soap box, pack your Tesla and drive back to California

      • Struggling Mom September 12, 2021 at 3:06 pm Reply

        Thanks for proving the author’s point.

        • Hello September 17, 2021 at 12:53 pm Reply

          The author didn’t have a point. That whole reply made no sense at all.

      • Free Bird September 12, 2021 at 3:55 pm Reply

        I’ll bet it is a lime green Prius, with pink wheels.

    • Josh September 17, 2021 at 12:51 pm Reply

      Please make up your mind what you’re trying to say here, S.F.

      Is the problem that people are too quiet about what they want or that they complain about development that they want to stop? Are you complaining about the problem that we are becoming as overdeveloped at Salt Lake or are you saying you think we should develop things like Salt Lake has? You say not enough of us go to Willow Park, but too many of us go to the dog park? What does the dog park have to do with creative intent for a better livelihood? That sounds like a bunch of buzzwords that mean nothing. Lee’s is a successful local business that you want them to build their Richmond location, but then you’re worried that it will compete against other local businesses? Figure out what you want, and try again.

  • Leslie Baker September 11, 2021 at 6:58 am Reply

    IM FREAKING PISSED OFF! THIS IS MY PHOTO I TOOK! NOT MARC NOT DAN HANSEN! DAN DOWNLOADED MY PICTURE AND SHARED IT AS HIS OWN! I LIVE ON THIS STREET AND TOOK THE PHOTO MYSELF! DAN STOLE IT AND CLAIMED IT! UOU BETTER FIX OR WE WILL HAVE A HUGE PROBLEM! https://training.npr.org/2016/01/12/these-are-nprs-photo-caption-guidelines/

  • Leslie Baker September 11, 2021 at 8:27 am Reply

    TAKE MY PHOTOS DOWN!!! THIS IS ILLEGAL WHAT YOU ARE DOING! ITS NOT DANS ITS MINE!

    • Struggling Mom September 11, 2021 at 12:52 pm Reply

      Calm down, give them a chance to fix the photo. My goodness, patience and understanding. I don’t think they thought you’d get so upset over your sign picture. They might have took a similar photo, it’s a sign. Geez..

    • Marc K Ensign September 11, 2021 at 12:55 pm Reply

      Leslie, the photo has been changed. It is not the one you claim as yours.

  • Amber Parkinson September 11, 2021 at 11:06 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing this information! I think most people care, they are just uninformed of what they can do to enable change. All we need is direction to make our voices heard! I appreciated your positive explanation of the growth of our valley.

  • Chris Nielsen September 12, 2021 at 9:49 am Reply

    Actually we do show up and comment but our voices have fallen on deaf ears. Hyrum city is among the worse at doing their own thing; the room was packed with people protesting against all the development south of Mountain Crest, but it didn’t matter to the city, they moved forward anyway. Logan has been the same, usually governed by the wealthy land lords who protect their own self interests. I’ve been to ca he county school board meetings where everyone opposed the agenda but the board did as they always do!

    • Marc K Ensign September 12, 2021 at 9:52 pm Reply

      Cities depend on growth and development for revenue to operate. You can, however, influence the policies of the county which the city must adhere to. That’s why we advocate responding to the county’s growth management plan. If it were left to the cities, the rural landscape would disappear. The county has the ability to slow things down and direct the build-out in a more balanced way. You can influence your city best If you’ll take the survey, and give the county your input.

  • Dennis Anderson September 12, 2021 at 9:53 pm Reply

    I love the Cache Valley of the ‘60s. I love the Valley even of the 2010s. I dislike the business lined highway between Logan and Smithfield. I dislike the old Providence lane being nothing more than another suburb. I hate the development of the Smithfield hills.

    But something none of this addresses is the fact that farming today takes a lot of equipment, a lot of ability and know-how and just plain old work. As our farmers get older something has to happen to their farmland. Their descendants may not want to take over or may not not be able to. Are we going to tell farmer B that you can’t sell your farmland for development? Sorry but you have to sell it to another farmer at a much lower price than Farmer A got last year.

    I don’t know what the answer is, short of more governmental controls and interference in our lives. If someone is smart enough to know the answer I’d like to know.

    • Dennis September 17, 2021 at 12:58 pm Reply

      Just because mistakes were made in the past doesn’t mean we should repeat them. The purpose of zoning is to make it so land is used in the way we plan it to be used. There’s nothing wrong with zoning land in a way that it is used for agricultural purposes and not allowing it to be built out with apartments or warehouses.

  • Marc K. Ensign September 13, 2021 at 8:06 am Reply

    Dennis, I don’t claim to be smart enough to know all the answers but what happened along the Logan River this year is a good example of what can be done when landowners, citizens and the government work together. Through landowner concessions, private donations, and public funding, 47 acres along the Logan River was put into a conservation easement that restricts future development. Farmers should get market value for their land but it doesn’t have to be sold to developers. This kind of community investment is what creates parks and trails, and the preservation of open, green space.

  • Un free bird September 17, 2021 at 7:38 am Reply

    I just can’t wait for the in and out to open at 400 north. I never thought that I would see the day that it would take an hour to get from Providence to Smithfield. It will be here before we know it.

  • Mike W September 19, 2021 at 7:59 am Reply

    What made Cache Valley wonderful is gone. Forever. Locals growing the population exponentially while couples married in their teens continue the procreation cycle always looking for affordable housing. New McMansions being slapped together on 1/5 acre lots, complete with dance rooms, movie theaters, and indoor gun ranges. Plenty of LDS folks moving back to Mecca from the West coast and beyond because their non-Mormon neighbors don’t have the same worldview. New homes with 4 car garages, and every “real man” has to have a truck. USU grows and students can’t study without a hot tub, fire pit, movie room, and workout station. “Wish we had a Zupas, In-n-Out, and Costco!” Plenty of old Cache Valley money more than happy to supply the funding to profit from the boom as they ram their SUVs full-speed-ahead up Logan Canyon to “get away” to Bear Lake and their 7000 sq ft plus cabins in Bear Lake. We sometimes all get what we wish for. Cache Valley of old is gone forever, and we are all to blame.

  • Marc K. Ensign September 20, 2021 at 9:12 am Reply

    Mike W. While I can relate to what you’ve said, I am far from ready to capitulate. While there is something we can do, let’s do it! Have you taken the survey? Have you shared your priorities with the county?

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