ST. GEORGE — Taking the pulse of Springdale residents is underway with the Utah Wellbeing Survey.

The George A. Baker Park is a favorite among locals, Springdale, Utah, Sept. 20, 2023 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

Community members ages 18 and older are invited to provide feedback to town leaders by filling out the online survey, which can be accessed at this link until March 22.

Tom Dansie, Springdale’s director of community development, told St. George News that they hope residents will take advantage of this opportunity.

“We’re really hoping to use the results and what we find from this survey to continue to make Springdale a great place to work and visit,” Dansie said. “The information that we learn through the survey will help us do a better job of accomplishing that goal.”

Springdale joins other Utah towns measuring residents’ well-being and attitudes about community issues to promote sound planning and decision-making to support the overall quality of life in the Beehive State’s cities.

The Utah Wellbeing Survey tracks local perspectives from rural places to larger and rapidly growing cities. Courtney Flint, professor in the Department of Environment Society at Utah State University and director of the Utah Wellbeing Project, told St. George News that partnerships with cities make it possible to conduct online surveys.

Over 14,000 surveys from Utahns were collected from 2019 to 2021, Flint added, and in 2022 and 2023, over 11,000 surveys were collected across 35 cities.

“There are increasingly many policies and decisions that come down to making life better for as many people as possible,” Flint said. “The idea of well-being goes back to the ancient Greeks and Aristotle, who wrote about all the things that make up a good life. I feel the bundle of things that makes up any given person’s well-being might be very different from the person next to them.”

Dansie said Springdale officials like the study because it does not explicitly define well-being. It allows people to explain or interpret what well-being means to them.

Sandstone cliffs rise behind the Springdale Town Hall, Springdale, Utah, unspecified date | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

“I think that’s important because that way, rather than trying to prescribe what makes up well-being for the survey respondents, the survey allows them to tell us what is important for the community,” Dansie said. “So using that information, we can really hone in on the most important aspects of well-being in Springdale and try to address and promote those.”

Dansie said leaders want to understand what is most important to residents. Springdale also hosts events such as the Two-Cents events, which are casual meetings with leaders for one-on-one conversations throughout the year. The events are posted in the town’s newsletter and residents can talk to town staff, the Planning Commission, and the council about their concerns.

“You can talk to us about what’s important and have a meaningful conversation outside of a public meeting or a public hearing that oftentimes is very formal and structured, maybe emotionally charged,” Dansie said. “These are opportunities in a less formal, more conversational format, to just talk to the community and find out what’s most important.”

Dansie said the survey is vital to fill out because leaders want to get input from residents.

“For somebody who says, ‘Well, my opinion doesn’t matter; nobody listens to me.’ I would say that is absolutely not the case,” Dansie said. “Particularly in Springdale, we go out of our way to listen to everyone who wants to share their opinion and perspective with us. And the decisions that the Town Council and Planning Commission make are always influenced by that public comment.”

Springdale residents are invited to give input on a well-being survey, Springdale, Utah, Aug. 22, 2023 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

Dansie added that while the Town Council or the Planning Commission may make a decision that is not entirely in line with a specific resident’s opinion, that doesn’t mean they were not heard. He said all input is valuable in helping town leaders make their ultimate decisions.

“That input may have influenced or modified the council’s decision from what previously may have been, even though it may not be completely in line with what that specific resident wants,” Dansie said.

It is impossible to always agree with 100% of people’s perspectives on issues, Dansie said, adding that people are individuals and that’s what makes up the community: people with different ideas, perspectives and values.

“We want to hear from all of those perspectives and we want to hear all those ideas,” he said. “We’re going to do our very best to make a decision that supports as many of those and is in line with as many of those as possible, recognizing that we’re never going to be able to be in line with everyone’s attitude and everyone’s opinion.”

The well-being study is divided into different categories. Flint said the study asks about local concerns and what people value about their communities. It can be taken every other year.

“The idea is to be able to keep doing this over time so that new cities to the project, like Springdale, can track the data over time and see how things evolve,” Flint said.

The nonprofit program is not highly funded but has support from the Utah League of Cities, Towns, the Front Regional Council, and the Utah State Extention Service. Seven cities have contributed some money to the program.

To view cities that are involved in the study for 2024, click here.

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