NOTE: I first wrote this in the mid-1990s, when I thought there was a chance our little town of Moab might avoid–or at least try to avoid—the kind of fate that it has eventually been consumed by. It was also published in ‘Brave New West.’ JS
When I think of Progress and what it means for places like Moab, I think of a community in which its citizens can earn a decent living, pay the bills, and have something left over at the end of the month. But I can call it Progress only when those citizens also realize the value of the intangible qualities that make our town unique and enrich our lives.
Qualities like the beauty and solitude of the canyons and mountains that surround us and qualities like the friendship, compassion and the trust and support of our neighbors are, to me, just as important as the bottom line on a financial statement.
Progress is maintaining our small town atmosphere while recognizing that some change is inevitable, and that change can sometimes even be an improvement.
Development is when the greed of its citizens allows uncontrolled growth that destroys all the qualities of small town life…the qualities that brought many of us here in the first place.
Progress is a business that flourishes and expands to meet a growing demand, while still maintaining the quality that caused its success in the first place. Its success is due to the owners’ talent and their hard work, and their employees; expanding the business is the reward for their efforts.
Development is an out-of-town investor who sees there’s money to be made and throws up another fast food franchise, taking business and customers away from the local cafes that have survived for years and years.
Progress is the effort by local citizens try to stay loyal to those well-established restaurants.
Development is locals abandoning them in droves for the franchise chains, in order to save a few cents.
Progress is a new business that comes to town and offers a new service or product that we truly need and could not obtain before.
Development is another tourist-pandering business with an absentee owner.
Progress is suitable and affordable housing for all its citizens.
Development is another tacky condo development for wealthy out-of-towners looking to invest in a second home and hoping to turn a tidy profit from overnight rentals.
Progress is trying to honestly preserve what’s left of the community’s agriculture.
Development is seeing most of Grand County’s other orchards and alfalfa fields turned into subdivisions.
Progress is our species recognizing the value…the absolute necessity for preserving what’s left of our wild pristine country.
Development is seeing it bulldozed under. Or perhaps worse, seeing those special places trampled under the feet of hordes of well-meaning people who claim they do recognize the value of wild lands but don’t recognize that their sheer numbers are destroying it.
Progress is moving to Moab, wanting to be a part of the community and wanting to contribute something to it.
Development is moving to Moab and seeing what can be taken from it.
Progress, in short, is Moab the Community.
Development, in a nutshell, is Moab the Population Center. What’s the difference? It’s everything.
EPILOGUE: Clearly, back in 1994, nobody was listening…JS
James Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.
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