Rural news round-up

From record-breaking numbers of visitors to Utah’s national parks, to hungry college students and from city council meetings to a social media influencer from Ephraim, check out this weeks round-up of news stories from some of Utah’s rural news outlets.

Flooding the desert – Record-breaking visitation invites research & conservation efforts in Arches. More American families than ever hit the road in 2020 — students packed their laptops and notebooks in the car while parents worked remotely — to see the socially-distanced sights the United States has to offer. Many traveled to southern Utah, where 35 million acres of federal land offered space to breathe and recreate given COVID-19 restrictions nearly everywhere else. “This past year has reminded us how important national parks and public lands are to overall wellbeing,” National Parks Service Deputy Director Shawn Benge said. “Throughout the country, national parks provided close-to-home opportunities for people to spend much needed time outdoors for their physical and psychological health.” Two Utah State University professors researched crowding patterns and trends at Arches to determine if visitors stayed socially distanced and wore face masks, and which trails in the park saw the heaviest traffic. The Leave No Trace Center identified Arches as a Leave No Trace Hot Spot — an area that has experienced potentially disastrous levels of human impact. (Moab Sun News)

Food assistance for college students – Hungry college students in St. George can fill their stomachs with the assistance of the Dixie State University Food Pantry and Dixie Technical College, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services announced March 1 that they may also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on a temporary basis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dixie State University assistant director of student involvement and leadership Anilee Adams told St. George News that in a sunny town like St. George, it can be hard to see the struggles many face on a daily basis. Nationwide, 45% of college students reported being “food insecure,” according to a 2018 survey from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. Adams said St. George isn’t immune. “It reaches us even here, where things are really so good overall, but not everyone gets to experience that good all the time.” (St. George News)

Water hookups on Cedar City agenda – From a new crosswalk to emergency water hookups, the Cedar City Council moved through several action items Wednesday night. The evening’s most discussed action concerned the amendment of an ordinance to allow residential subdivisions located outside city boundaries to connect onto the city’s water system for emergency backup purposes. At issue was Buena Vista Apartments’ request, per state requirement, to be hooked up to city water to be used only in emergency backup situations. The way the ordinance reads is that only government entities may request additional water connections. Council member Craig Isom said he was opposed to changing the ordinance. (Cedar City Utah)

Kane County ends mask mandate; State says not so fast – Kane County has been in the high transmission stage for a few weeks, but as pointed out by the Kane County Covid Task Force, it was mainly due to the spike in cases at the Kane County Jail. Governor Cox stands by guidance from the Utah Department of Health, which is that the mandate remains in all counties until April 10, and a county does not have individual authority to end it. When asked why the county felt the need to end the mandate a few weeks before the state, Kane County Attorney Rob Van Dyke said, “Due to the failure of the state to take action regarding the transmission index designation, the Kane County Commission decided to take action on their own.  Working in conjunction with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, Commissioner Andy Gant reviewed the data for Kane County excluding data from the Kane County Jail. With authority delegated by the Kane County Commission, Commissioner Gant, by executive order, has declared that Kane County is designated as a Low Transmission Area. The Executive Order further explains that the State Department of Health did not follow the law in issuing the current State Public Health Order that establishes the transmission index and therefore it does not carry any legal authority.  (Southern Utah News)

Rep. Curtis to visit San Juan County, hold town halls – Representative John Curtis will be visiting San Juan County next week. Curtis, a Republican from Provo, represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District in the US House of Representatives. Curtis will be meeting with local elected officials and holding a town hall meeting in Monticello on Tuesday, March 30 from 6-7 p.m. at the Hideout Community Center. The meeting will adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions, including masks and social distancing. The town hall will be an opportunity for Curtis to talk about current issues and for constituents to ask questions of the representative. Curtis will also hold a town hall meeting on Wednesday, March 31 from 6-7 p.m. at the Historic Star Hall, 159 East Center Street in Moab. (San Juan Record)

Social media influence from Ephraim, Utah – Sarah Woods’ social media posts about farming and life have attracted tens of thousands of followers. “I am Sarah, and my husband is Joe, and we are the chaos coordinators of WildWood Farm and we suck at our job. Our chaos is definitely not coordinated,” Sarah Wood stated in her introduction to her WildWood Farms Instagram page. Her page and other social media posts, which describe everyday life on her farm between Manti and Ephraim, and include artistic and sometimes whimsical photographs, have captured a following of thousands. Woven through her posts is her appreciation of nature and family, and her philosophy of accepting whatever life dishes out. Sarah said that their farm doesn’t make them any money; it just takes all of their money. Sarah and her husband Joe have four children, 81 animals and as many plants as she can keep alive. They have been married for 23 years. Sarah works as a photographer, and Joe works in the oil field as a mud engineer. (Sanpete Messenger)

The wait is over – Box Elder legislators find way to secure $30 million in funding for long-suffering rail road overpass project. The days of waiting for trains on Forest Street in Brigham City will soon be over. The money will come from fuel taxes paid by the Union Pacific Railroad, thanks to a bill sponsored by State Representative Joel Ferry and State Senator Scott Sandall that was passed during a special session of the legislature last summer. No one is happier about the development than Brigham City Mayor Tyler Vincent. “I’ve been working on this from day one in my first term as mayor,” said Vincent, whose first term began on Jan. 6, 2014. “We were meeting with the railroad, letting them know we were having significant problems with West Forest and crossing the tracks. They indicated that they were willing to help us with some funding as far as getting some signals as you’re coming off the freeway and off of Forest Street. I had several discussions with them, and never ever got any help at all.” Vincent shared that his concerns were not only for workers and commuters that were caught behind the train, often times having to wait 40 minutes or more until the track cleared, but he was even more concerned about emergency vehicles. (Box Elder News Journal)

New health sciences building in LoganBridgerland Technical College announced approval from the Utah State Legislature last week to begin construction on a 75,000-square-foot health sciences building. According to a statement from the college, the new facility is to house “seven high-demand health care programs” including registered nursing, practical nursing, medical and dental assisting, among other offerings. The project has received $1 million in funding from private donors and $38 million in appropriated funds, according to the statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of health care workers in our community paramount,” states Lisa Moon, associate VP for Health Sciences and Public Services, in the release. “This new Bridgerland Technical College Health Sciences Building is essential for the College to successfully train the healthcare workforce needed both now and in the future.” (The Leader)