Letter to the Editor: Carbon County’s Identity Crisis


Carbon County is undergoing an identity crisis. A community whose name is literally derived from the mining of coal is now no longer mining it. Many are fearful and in the full belief that our county’s current turmoil is the deathrows of old age, a last gasp before the extinction of who we always thought we were. But I refuse to accept this and resign my home to a fate we did not choose. Instead, I don’t see this crisis of identity as the end of a life, but something more reminiscent of the awkward and uncomfortable transition from adolescence into adulthood. Similar to that critical junction in our own lives, when we were entrusted to make those perilous choices that would determine what kind of person we would become, Carbon County has the opportunity to evolve.

But not all choices in front of us are of the same quality and making the wrong ones will be disastrous. Attracting outside corporations to relocate their manufacturing facilities has the benefit of temporary security but history shows that the incomprehensibly wealthy who control them care little about us; they have no real stake in our success. We saw this time and again such as when Murray Energy owned mines in our county, which were often shuttered at the whim of a petulant billionaire who threw infantile tantrums from his mansion in Ohio. The farce of “trickle down” economics is a blight to the working class and is no more evident than when you step foot in Castle Country. We must seek to build our own industries, devoid of the influence of those who’ve never known a hard day’s labor, industries dedicated to the success of its workers and a benefit to the entire community.

Carbon County has always been ready to work towards that goal and we have a plan to make this a reality. Now, we are asking our friends and neighbors of this wonderful State to invest in us, to let us once again prove our mettle.

During this legislative session, two proposals have been submitted that would (1) expand the degree offerings at USU Eastern, formerly our beloved College of Eastern Utah, to include those offered through the Huntsman School of Business and (2) increase the public outreach and collections management at our world-famous Prehistoric Museum.

The first proposal asks for an annual commitment of $1.05 million, which will create five full-time faculty positions and two support positions (one full-time and one part-time). I cannot express how impactful this will be for us. USU Eastern is unique among institutions of higher learning; it is a full-time residential campus that offers degrees and certificates in trades as well as traditional university subjects. Imagine a university where students from all walks of life, on every conceivable career path, are colleagues and coeds, where a student studying diesel mechanics rooms with another studying entrepreneurship, or one studying for their nursing degree can also take business administration courses. Within this crucible of camaraderie, thoughts and ideas will be shared, dreams mapped out, and industries born. Industries that revolutionize the world.

The second proposal asks for an annual commitment of $198,910.50, which will create two new full-time positions at the Prehistoric Museum – A Collections Manager and a Education Coordinator – as well as shore up significant funding gaps for general expenditures. The USU Eastern Prehistoric museum is the second largest natural history museum in the State, the only accredited museum south of the Wasatch Front and arguably the largest attraction in the county. Over the last fiscal year, the museum had over 24,000 visitors. The funding for these two new positions would allow the museum to provide public access to its spectacular collections while ensuring their ongoing preservation. From the incredible ancient history of our indigenous population to the awe-inspiring magnitude of our world-famous dinosaurs, our museum is a rare gem and deserves many millions of dollars more than this meager ask. Expect to be hearing from me again in the years to come regarding bringing a geology program to USU Eastern, the location of which alone will make it the envy of the entire scientific community.

If you are not convinced, pay us a visit. As you drive through our canyons and plateaus, take the time to pull over for just a moment and find a quiet spot. Listen to the breezes flow through our trees, to the exquisite silence of our desert plains, behold the sheer majesty of our castle gates and towers that stand sentinel over a diverse people living within their protection. Those canyon breezes and desert serenity carry the whispers of those who came before, our cherished sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, who lay entombed within the shuttered mines of our mighty mountains, sacrifices one and all to the hope that our community will thrive. Their indominadable will continues on in us. I feel the echoes of my proud union grandfathers calling out across time, encouraging me to continue their fight for the working class and I can think of no better way forward for my home than to redefine our economy by investing in our university.

This investment in us will pay Utah dividends for countless years to come. So, I plead with you to advocate for this expansion and once it passes, send us your children for their education and we will treat them as our own within the protection of our castle gates as they revolutionize the world.

Nathaniel Woodward, Chair – Carbon County Democrats

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