Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pausing to Consider How Others See Junction City

Spotlight on today's thoughtful Michael Vaughn Op-ed Piece

By Curmudgeon

Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, And foolish notion.

Robert Burns
Robert Burns Quotes

Things in Ogden are pretty good right now. The international media have recognized that fact. Residents of Ogden need to take a moment to pause and enjoy the city's many benefits that have resulted in the well-deserved praise Ogden is receiving.

Pausing to consider how others see Junction City
July 28, 2008

Interesting op-ed piece in this morning's Standard-Examiner by WSU Provost Michael Vaughan, headed "Pausing to See How Others See Junction City." He did a Lexis/Nexis search to see how Ogden City was being reported about in the national and world press. Interesting results:

Given what Ogden has to offer, I wasn’t surprised to see that our town was getting some much deserved national attention. However, I was a bit surprised by the sheer number of national articles featuring Ogden. I was also taken aback by the fact that Ogden is attracting a considerable amount of attention in the international press.[...]
In the past 20 months, dozens of articles in the national and international press have praised Ogden. This explains why you can’t spend a day skiing at Snowbasin without hearing at least a little French, German or Italian being spoken in the lift line.
As I finished it, I couldn't help thinking: All this good ink from all around the world, about Ogden... and nary a flatland gondola in sight. Imagine that.

Worth a look.

Read the full editorial here.


Feeling Validated said...

I wasn't aware that we were all sitting around waiting for somebody to validate our city.

I am glad I read this article this morning since I didn't realize how good I had it here. I was being forced to live here against my will.

This was a terrible article!!!

Curmudgeon said...

Not entirely un-related, and definitely related to a thread several clicks down by now, the SL Trib has an interesting article up today on walkable neighborhoods and a UU study showing they are healthier places for people to live. Link here.

Dr. Opposite said...

Nice catch, Curm; and here's something I found interesting from the article you just now linked:

Crunching data on nearly 500,000 Salt Lake County driver licenses, researchers documented a strong correlation between residents' body-mass index and the kind of urban environment they inhabit. Those who live in walkable neighborhoods are leaner than those in newer areas designed around automobiles, according to the study, published today in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

That conclusion supports unscientific intuition of course. It stands to reason that people who walk are more fit than those who don't.

As a prominent retired scientist has been, I want to compliment the U of U researchers who gathered Drivers License data and correlated it with neighborhoods. I'd love to find a web link with more detail on this important study.

Here's something particularly interesting from this UofU study too:

The researchers found that adding 10 years to the age of a neighborhood decreased obesity risk by 8 percent for women and 13 percent for men. A 6-foot-tall man, on average, weighed 10 pounds less if he lived in a walkable neighborhood; a 5-foot-5-inch woman weighed 6 pounds less. The study also found that your risk of being overweight drops if your neighbors walk to work.

As my teenaged grandaughter constantly says: "Doh"

righty said...

Curm, et al,
Just out of curiousity, what would be considered a "walkable neighborhood" in Ogden? Ogden is a fairly dense city (population- wise, that is) for Utah, although it lacks certain amenities. For instance, where I live, it is possible for my children to walk to school, although I would never allow them to since crossing Harrison Blvd is such a hazard. In addition, the nearest grocery store (Alby's @ 20th and Harrison)is close to a mile away from my house. I like walkable neighborhoods and am all for them, I wish mine was more walkable. I guess I'm just curious if anyone had some thoughts on this. Also, I'm wondering if the city's planning office has ever looked at this information (although it seems like something that would be a rather basic planning school subject). Does anybody who reads this forum consider their neighborhood to be walkable?

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: Just out of curiosity, what would be considered a "walkable neighborhood" in Ogden?

Or anywhere. Good question. I imagine the UU researches must have agreed on a working definition of what constituted a "walkable" neighborhood [other than age of the neighborhood] in order to do their study. I'll see if I can track down what it was.

As a guess, for openers, I imagine it would require some retail [especially food, but including some others] within walking distance [and what did they define as "walking distance"? UTA studies show people will generally wall two blocks to get to transit, but will not as a rule wall more than three blocks.] Also some entertainment within the same distance [movie? playhouse? Park? Tennis courts? etc?], and transit within the same distance as well?

Let me see if I can find the definition they used. Good question. And I wonder, as you do, if the Ogden planning department has a working definition of "walkable neighborhood."

Mine is not. I walk regularly to a bus stop [nearest one, four blocks away], to a coffee shoppe [six blocks away], but the nearest supermarket requires driving... two miles one way to Smiths, two miles the other way to Albertsons. Hardware store several miles further away, not easily reached by transit. No restaurants within comfortable walking distance. I can walk to work [1.25 miles one way] in good weather [WSU], and I can walk to a park easily [three blocks to Mt. Ogden Park], say six or seven to tennis courts and eight to the golf course [though I play neither]. There is an elementary school, a junior high and a high school within easy walking distance [no more than six blocks each], without any major street crossings, so that qualifies. But on the whole, I'd say "no," that I don't live in a walkable neighborhood.

Amy Wicks said...


I am on 28th and Quincy. I live withing walking distance (I will define this as .75 of a mile) from three coffee shops, no less than 10 restaurants (some are my favorites- Bombay Grill, Taco Taco and Pizza Runner) several dry cleaners, a handful of small ethnic and discount grocers, Carlos Produce, post office, liquor store, winter sports store, the nice office building where I work, the honest friendly service station where I have my vehicle serviced, a discount home furnishings store, veterinary offices, and finally an independent pharmacy as well as a chain drug store. I'm sure I missed a few. According to Mapquest, if I want to walk 1.05 miles I can be at Bangkok Garden, Bombay Grill, Roosters, Bistro 258, Athenian or the heavenly taco carts downtown. If you don't count convenience stores, big chains don't seem to have any sort of presence in this walkable area. My big complaint is that grocers with a large general selection are 1.2 to 2 miles away. We have lost several businesses over the years from the area including our hardware store on 28th and Washington, Bookateria moved to Washington Boulevard and Bright Day Health Foods relocated to Harrison Boulevard south of WSU. East Central Ogden has enormous potential as a walkable community and is within easy biking distance (less than 1.5 miles) to Front Runner.

Moroni McConkie said...

This thread is quickly establishing that a lack of grocery stores is the chief stumbling block for more Ogden neighborhoods to be thought of as walkable.

Otherwise, I nominate Historic 25th Street as the most walkable neighborhood in the Junction City. Endless diversion and diversity, plenty to do, great eateries, Weber County Library, and almost sinful accessibility to some of the greatest (particularly since the FrontRunner's advent) public transportation in the country.

And, actually, it's an easy bus ride down Washington for groceries.

Bill C. said...

I've never met Vaughn, but I sense he got caught up in lying little matty's and the geigers chicken little scenario, "our towns going to hell, something big must be done" gondola land scheme. Then in the course of his research he was convinced by the propaganda he read. Why did he need convincing and time to reflect?
Even back in the early 70s folks from other communities in Utah had some bogus perception of our great city. It's never been true.
Ogden has always been a great place to live.
We had baseball at John Afflick Park, the Orpheum and Egyptian Theatres, White City Bowl where you could bowl play pool or snooker, Johnny would even rack and keep score for you.
We had shopping galore, 25th st was hopping,(not like the 40s and 50s, but lively all the same) There were restaurants all over town, good ones. Grocery stores galore.
Things change, but new isn't necessarily better. It's the people that make a community, and always will. Ogden's been great and will continue to be as long as the people care about each other. We don't need to dress it up and try to be the next Boulder, Crested Butte or urban outdoor utopia, we're Ogden, and that's great.

Curmudgeon said...


One of the principal authors authors of the UU study kindly sent me a copy of it. [Since it has not yet been published, I don't feel free to quote directly from it.] But in general, there seems to be no standard definition of "walkable" neighborhoods, though research [some of it from Canadian urban studies] seems to be working toward one.

The authors used four criteria to build their working definition: higher density neighborhoods and neighborhood design to encourage walking use [e.g. street intersection within a quarter of a mile of every address in the hood]; third, the proportion of residents walking to work, and the median age of the housing. [The study goes into explanation of why they chose these four criteria. For example, the older the median age of residential housing, the more likely the neighborhood was originally designed to accommodate walking; the newer the housing, the more likely the neighborhood was designed to accommodate driving residents. And so on.]

The authors chose these criteria because they seemed most likely to stand as reflectors what they hoped to measure [health of residents as reflected in body mass index, etc.]

I've asked the Ogden City planning office if they have a definition they use for planning purposes. No reply yet.

I suspect for purposes of public discussion and city planning in Ogden, a broader standard something like that suggested by Councilwoman Wicks would be useful: what's available within X distance. I suspect for most folks a .5 mile radius would be more acceptable than the .75 one she suggestions --- i.e. what's available within a one mile walking round trip. A .5 mile radius would still provide a circle one mile in diameter for each residence, defined as "in the neighborhood." Within that circle, groceries, some varied other retail shopping, opportunities for recreation and entertainment [parks, movies, theaters, etc.], restaurants, drug stores, etc. --- or a reasonable number of them --- would have to be available, as Councilwoman Wicks suggested.

I want, when the term ends, to track down some of the studies, particular the Canadian ones, cited in the UU article. Looks interesting.

Thanks again to Prof. Ken Smith of UU for providing a copy of the study the SL Trib reported on.

righty said...

Thanks for replying Amy Wicks and thanks to Curm also. I recall learning at one point that prior to the proliferation of suburbs (post 1940) neighborhoods were starting to be based around elementary schools. An elementary school (within 5 minutes walk time) with houses around it, then grocery or neighborhood stores and other amenities where needed. Of course things were much different then. One thing I am concerned about is the imbalance of work and home and other activities (work in one city, live in another, have baseball practice in another, go shopping in another). This will be an enormous hurdle to overcome, largely because of the economics behind it. I, for instance, have friends who work in SLC and live in Ogden because they can't find a good job in O-town, so they commute. And they cannot afford to buy a home in SLC, so they live in Ogden. I took Frontrunner in the morning one time last week to SLC and I notice a lot of people commute from Ogden to SLC, likely for the same reason.

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