TOQUERVILLE – Toquerville has enjoyed steady growth over the past decade, with a current population of 700. Nestled in a wide valley less than 20 miles north of St. George, it is a favored vacation spot for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
The candidates in the upcoming election for City Council are targeting many of the issues that naturally follow growth and expansion, such as water rights, parks planning, sewer modifications and vacation rentals. In essence, many of the issues revolve around the increase in population, as well as the annual tourism that this rural community enjoys.
There are three seats open this election, with five candidates in the running. The two incumbents, Ty Bringhurst and Paul Heideman, are hoping to retain their seats on the council, while Keen Ellsworth, David Hawkins and Wayne Olsen are lobbying for council seats, as well.
While the candidates may have different goals if elected, their core objectives are still the same: To sustain growth while at the same time maintaining the quality of life that Toquerville has come to enjoy.
One fundamental issue that would be addressed should Ty Bringhurst retain his seat on the council is to implement the Parks and Trails Master Plan. Bringhurst said there is currently such a plan but that it’s not being developed or implemented. With his reelection would come the authority to allocate “people and funding to this project,” he said, adding that it is critical.
A considerable amount of effort is needed to attain the goals of the Parks and Trails Master Plan, and the funding and allocation need to match that commitment. Bringhurst said continuing with the development of the parks is “very important to this community, in addition to those who visit every year.”
If he is not elected, he said his efforts would be restricted as a result of his inability to allocate the resources that would be needed to develop the plan, nor would he have the authority to do so. He would, however, continue to pursue the goals of the plan.
One fun fact about Bringhurst is that he enjoys fly-fishing and mountain biking.
The Ash Creek Sewer District is the main focus for incumbent Paul Heideman, which makes sense, as he is presently on the Culture and Recreation/Beautification/Sewer District Board. He said he is committed to completing the major projects for the coming year, and at the top of the list is replacing the outdated headworks, which remove or reduce pollutant levels in the water coming into the plant before it is treated and released.
The existing procedure requires that technicians remove this larger waste manually, so the integration of new headworks would be a drastic improvement compared to the outdated system they are currently working with.
The timing couldn’t be better, Heideman said.
“The sewer district is in the best financial condition right now and is basically debt free,” he said.
If he does not win, Heideman said he will continue in his efforts to ensure that new headworks are purchased and implemented; however, he said he would be unable to allocate the necessary funding for the project.
One fun fact about Heideman is his ability to laugh at himself, which he said is “a trait that I have acquired over the years.”
Toquerville is right at the mouth of Zion National Park, so issues related to vacation rentals are on the mind of candidate Keen Ellsworth. Many tourists visit this quaint community every year, and while that has many advantages, he said it has also impacted the community in many ways.
Historically, Toquerville has always maintained bed and breakfast inns throughout the area, which has a positive influence on the community, Ellsworth said. These inns are well-maintained, and the business owners generally live onsite and have a vested interest in the upkeep and maintenance of the property.
Vacation rentals, on the other hand, are usually rented or leased for months at a time, so the owner of the property usually lives offsite and sometimes even out of state, he said. As such, the properties are not as well maintained, and there can also be a lack of involvement by the owner. Ellsworth said water rights and restrictions can also be affected by these long-term rentals, which, in turn, triggers further restrictions.
In the event he is not elected, Ellsworth said he will continue his efforts to address this issue, in addition to serving in his present position as an administrative law judge.
A fun fact about Ellsworth, and something that is not well-known, is he was “raised on a cattle ranch in Arizona and had more of a ‘cowboy’ upbringing,” he said.
The issue that is paramount to the community, according to candidate Dave Hawkins, is the irrigation issue. Water restrictions are presently in place, but those restrictions refer to water rights.
The problem lies in the fact that no one really knows the amount of water they have a right to, Hawkins said, nor is there any system to determine how much water is logistically available.
“There is no oversight on the amount of water that is actually there,” Hawkins said.
Another concern that is directly related is the sale of water rights to new residents. Hawkins said the existing residents have their water rights restricted, but the Washington County Water Conservancy District is continuing to sale water rights to new residents in spite of those restrictions. Naturally, this reduces the amount of water available overall, which only worsens the problem.
If he is not elected, Hawkins said he is considering a volunteer effort with this issue, and he is presently on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
One fun fact about Hawkins is he enjoys building things. He said he is, and has been, working on beautifying his home and does all the work himself.
The focus of Wayne Olsen’s mission is actually two-fold, and targets Toquerville’s small town feel. Olsen believes “this can be done through responsible growth planning,” he said. Olsen also said he is well-equipped for the task, being that he has lived in Toquerville for 47-and-a-half years consecutively and he “knows what a small town actually feels like.”
Utility costs also play a significant role in maintaining the country-like atmosphere in Toquerville, and Olsen is committed to ensuring continued access to affordable utilities for residents, he said. Responsible growth planning can play an important role in these costs as well, he said.
One fun fact about Olsen is that he enjoys bird hunting, and takes pride in the fact that he is a long-time resident of Toquerville – almost half a century – and enjoys the small town feel.
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