Dateline: Saint George—Reinventing Southwest Utah

May 10, 2021

Credit John Taylor

Welcome back, visitors to southwest Utah. Welcome to our “Ferris Bueller” era. It’s where we remind you—“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

While you’ve been defeating the family in games of Battleship and your spouse has been abusing an old Jane Fonda workout tape, lots has been happening here.

Let me catch you up while you’re stuck in Hurricane on the way to Zion National Park. It’s like every traffic light is timed so you must gawk at the sprawl of new hotels, housing tracts and fast-food joints amid the post-pandemic grunion run of outdoor enthusiasts.

I moved to St. George three years ago from Central California. Good thing, too, because I couldn’t afford the prices for housing now. It’s a drunken market, said a realtor friend, and there’s no end in sight.

I was a tourist when I first saw the big white “D” carved into a St. George mesa. I thought it was odd. After doing homework about how this “Dixie” got its name, I regarded the “D” as quaint. Now it’s an endangered word, linked more with intolerance than heritage.

Intermountain Healthcare quickly shed the Dixie name, so we now have “St. George Regional Medical Center.” And Dixie State University will eventually wear a new badge after a politically fraught mediation. 

The “D” on the mesa may remain as the university tries to get it and its hillside placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Meanwhile, the St. George Temple, the first completed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Utah, is still closed for renovations. It won’t reopen until 2022.

And the eye-popping drive to the Tuacahn amphitheater and Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins will take longer thanks to oodles of new homes as well as what some call the area’s first strip mall.

Washington County still supports building a multi-billion-dollar pipeline to siphon water from drought-strapped Lake Powell. And plans continue for a northern corridor highway through a tortoise preserve.

So, stargazers, rock climbers and road graders, welcome back to southwest Utah. The past is still present. But as successful school truant Ferris Bueller warned, you’d better give it a hard look quickly.