ST. GEORGE — For the second year, Hurricane residents ranked higher in terms of community and personal wellbeing than residents in 29 other Utah cities that participated in the Utah Wellbeing Survey Project conducted by Utah State University.
The survey was conducted January and February and recorded 271 viable results from surveys administered to residents 18 and older. Researchers tabulated the results and applied these to various categories and wellbeing domains.
Dr. Courtney Flint, sociology professor at Utah State University, heads up the project. St. George News interviewed Flint regarding Hurricane’s 2021 survey results.
The purpose of the project is to gather data from residents that can used by local governments in their general planning processes. This year’s surveys were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The timing was deliberate as it allowed researchers to gauge the impact of the pandemic on this year’s results compared to 2020.
“The 2021 numbers on overall personal and community wellbeing are almost exactly what they were in 2020,” Flint said. “And Hurricane is above average for both in terms of rapid growth communities and the study communities as a whole.”
Leisure time was negatively impacted by the pandemic, but only for those individuals without a college degree. When asked why those individuals who possess a degree are more likely to have more leisure time than individuals without a degree, Flint said, “I can’t explain this. It’s just what the data tells us. It’s important to note that leisure time only declined for 39% of Hurricane residents overall.” She added the pandemic had the most detrimental impact on social connections, cultural activities and mental health.
Concerns about growth
Water supply topped the list of top concerns among Hurricane residents. Over 80% of survey respondents listed water as a moderate or major concern. Public safety was next on the list of top concerns, followed by access to public land, roads and transportation, affordable housing and opportunities for youth.
Hurricane is one of 12 cities the project categorized as rapid growth. Other rapid growth cities include Ephraim, Herriman, Hyde Park, Lehi, Nephi, Nibley, North Logan, Santaquin, Saratoga Springs, Spanish Fork and Vineyard.
Most Hurricane respondents believe the city’s population is growing too fast. Half of the respondents feel the pace of economic development is also too fast. St. George News asked Flint what the survey results said about Hurricane’s apparent dichotomy of wanting to grow — the city approved 12,000 new building permits — and its concerns of growing too fast.
Flint said, “It’s not uncommon for residents to a community to differ in opinion. In this case on economic development, I can say that these perspectives do not relate to length of residence.”
On a related note, Flint said, “What is interesting in the Hurricane data related to growth is that people are more negative about residential development than they are commercial development.
This mindset is indicative of the “gangplank” syndrome. “People entering a new community desire to close the gates (or pull up the gangplank) behind them after they have moved in,” Flint said. “But it also may relate in some cases to longtime residents unhappy seeing their community change rapidly with growth.”
Neither education nor cultural opportunities rank high on Hurricane’s list of top concerns. Flint said, “I might speculate that this could be because Hurricane has a high proportion of older residents than other cities and these folks aren’t as directly tied to education for themselves or their children.” She added that opportunities for youth did register as a moderate to a major concern for the future of Hurricane. “Sixty-nine percent of respondents feel this way” Flint said. “This is actually quite high and is mirrored by data from other rural communities.”
Under “Participation in Community Activities,” church group activities ranked highest. School group activities and serving on a government board or committee ranked lowest in this survey section. Flint said these findings are not peculiar to Hurricane. “This is relatively common across communities,” she said.
The end results
Flint said that despite a slight decline in feelings of personal and community wellbeing, Hurricane residents love their city and the amenities it affords. She said, “Many respondents indicated in comments that they very much value the small town, rural feel of Hurricane. The kind and supportive people, the aesthetic and beautiful surroundings, the high sense of security, the peaceful and quiet atmosphere, and the open spaces and farmlands around town.”
Full survey results can be found at https://extension.usu.edu/business-and-community/utah-wellbeing-project/.
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