Stewardship and Recreation: Is This a Marriage Made in Utah?

Article excerpt

It takes only a sip of Polygamy Pale Ale at Rooster's Brewing Company in downtown Ogden to suspect that the conventional perceptions of Utah as a conservative Mormon hideaway are slowly shifting.

Ogden, which lies 35 miles north of Salt Lake City is now poised to become a popular year-round tourist destination for outdoorsy types who seek an alternative to Colorado's saturated ski resorts and sky-high tourist towns. The Wasatch Mountain Valley features miles of hiking and biking trails and two ski resorts. Despite the opportunities, Ogden now faces the same challenge as many nature-centered towns--how to best promote the natural world without exploiting it.

Boom Ahead?

Once a major hub during the days of the Transcontinental Railway, Ogden fell on hard times with the loss of rail travel. The city is now pursuing an aggressive campaign to increase growth and tourism based on its desired identity, in the words of Mayor Matthew R. Godfrey, as "The high-adventure recreation world capital." Some community members, however, including the group Smart Growth Ogden, question the wisdom of proposed development projects at the expense of the local environment.

Two ski resorts--Snow Basin and Powder Mountain already stud the surrounding Wasatch Front, and a proposed project would add a third, as well as 400 new residential homes, a redesigned golf course and a gondola connecting the new resort to downtown. Amer Sports Corporation is moving its North American headquarters to Ogden, and a proposed High Adventure Recreation Center is set to include sky-diving, rock-climbing, two kayak parks, bouldering, skiing and--yes, in Utah--surfing. Wal-Mart is set to move in, but funding for Union Station, the town's number one historic site, has just been slashed.

Some residents are excited by the pace of change. "It's really starting to happen in Ogden," says Mary McKinley, executive director of the Ogden Nature Center, which has had a community presence for 31 years. "We haven't had a huge boom yet, but it's beginning."

The nature center boasts not only passive solar and geothermal technology, but its classrooms feature bio-composite cabinets that incorporate locally derived wheat chaff, crushed sunflower seeds and compressed newspapers. 13-inch by 13-inch "windows" let visitors peek into the north-facing wall to see natural insulation, including shredded recycled blue jeans, cellulose and straw bales. …