We’ve been living in Saint George Utah for the last seven weeks and have made a few observations during that time. The most obvious is that it’s very sunny and pleasant here in January and February. The locals have complained how unusually wet and cold it has been this winter but compared to other places I’ve lived, (Portland OR, Chicago IL, Des Moines, IA…) it’s been sunny, warm and dry. Not surprisingly the parking lots around here are filled with cars sporting license plates from Washington, Oregon, and the Upper Midwest.
A more unexpected discovery has been how much Saint George makes me think of the 1950’s. As in most of America young mothers can be seen herding their children through stores, restaurants, etc. but what I’m not accustomed to seeing is the young mothers accompanied by an equally attentive father and husband. The traditional family unit is alive and well in Saint George Utah and it’s refreshing to see both parents caring for and playing with their children. Not surprisingly the children are better behaved in public because of it. The city also appears to be an idyllic community for a Family Medicine Practice; strong family units, low body mass index, a physically active and well educated population and a paucity of smoking and drinking. I suspect the health insurance companies love Saint George also.
Along with good parenting, good citizenship seems to predominate as well. Scouting is very popular in Utah and according to a conversation between Scout Masters about 45% of their scouts achieve Eagle status. Even the local university does it’s part to help create good citizens by offering “Merit Badge” classes on subjects like ecology, natural sciences, etc. Speaking of the local university it seems stuck in a by gone era too. Undergraduate tuition for a full time student is about $4,000 a year. That’s only a thousand dollars more than I paid three decades ago.
Of course Saint George is a “real” 21st century city, not a fantasy, and not without crime. The local newspaper recently reported that the community spends between 600 and 800 dollars a month for graffiti removal. City officials claim they remove graffiti within 48 hours. Personally I’ve seen only one incident of graffiti. In large white letters, painted on a wall adjacent to a bike path was a four letter word, “LOVE”.
Sue and I both agree that this is the “tidiest” city we have ever lived in and also the most bike friendly. The county has an extensive collection of paved bike paths that pass through city, state and National Parks including Zion. It also has plenty of bike lanes but the bike paths are especially nice since they are physically separate from the road and you don’t have to worry about drivers drifting out of their lane and ruining your ride. However, since the entire metro area has a population of only 140,000 people and most roads have good shoulders, biking is pretty pleasant no matter where you ride. The area also offers great off road options for mountain biking.
The natural question is, “If Saint George is such a great place why don’t you move there?” Well, we are in the process of doing that. We just bought a lot in an Eco-Friendly development a few miles west of the city adjacent to the 62,000 acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and the Red Mountain Wilderness Area. A bike path forms the western border of our lot and when the home’s completed we’ll be able to backpack straight out our backdoor and into the Desert Reserve, the Red Mountain Wilderness Area or Snow Canyon State Park.
But it’s a desert! Yes it is, and two months a year, July and August, it get’s hot – a 100 degrees a day hot. But I spent more than two months a year cooped up indoors when I lived in Portland, Chicago, Des Moines… due to rain, cold, heat, etc. so it’s not that significant a change in life style. The athletes I’ve questioned about the heat reported that they just start earlier in the morning but still get five hours of hiking, biking, etc. in before it gets too hot. Or you can drive an hour or two north and hike in the cool of the mountains at 9,000 plus feet. In the winter that same drive takes you to ski country. The heat also makes a great excuse for a summer road trip. But no matter where we go I’ll miss Saint Georges’ pleasant 1950’s-like qualities.