Sounds of harmony now ring in Springdale, continued

"Songdog" says the license plate on one of Bimstein's vehicles. It is the English language translation of the Navajo word for "coyote." In Navajo legend, the "songdog" sings the world into existence.

"Personally, we all sing our own world into existence. We can choose to see good or bad in whatever we create, and we can create the future of the town by way we conduct ourselves."

And for this Chicago-born mayor: a former member of the new wave band Phil 'n the Blanks, an award-winning composer and graduate of the Chicago Conservatory of Music, there is a melody to be found in the effort.

Opposing voices and sounds can find a harmony, he says.

Dissonance and harmony. As in music, there is a place for both in consensus-building.

He likens various opinions to a musical counterpoint.

Different opinions are like different pieces in an orchestra. "They can all blend together. Sometimes someone takes the solo role and sometimes people are acting in a support position."

More dissonance

But some Springdalians see things more simply. The woman working at the counter at Canyon Offerings on Main Street isn't talking esoterics or amorphous community philosophy. She's talking survival.

No, she won't give her name. And no, she doesn't think it's a great idea to do the story: "Springdale, A Wonderful Place."

Instead, she hopes it's a story about "how scary it is to live here when you invest your life savings in a place and then it's ruined by yuppies or whoever moves in."

Her wish? "That you Wasatch Front people would stay up there and we will stay down here. The best thing we can do for Springdale is to keep our mouths shut."

All opinions have value, says Mayor Bimstein. All voices are part of the community's song. "I can see a way in which everyone has a part to play."

That's the way it's always been here.

Institutional memory

Elva Twitchell remembers the trees.

She grew up inside what is now Zion National Park. There were cedars and pinyon pines and juniper trees and she and other children explored every canyon and crevice. They looked for bird nests, but children knew never to touch a bird's egg.

Her father, William Louis Crawford, had a farm there where he grew cherries, apples, nectarines, pecans and walnuts. Her father was known throughout the county for the size and sweetness of his watermelons.

Later, when the federal government bought her father's farm to make the park, the family moved to town.

She's moved away a couple of times through the past nine decades, but always came home.

She doesn't like all the changes. The Cinemax theater, for instance. It's too big and too loud. She can't look when the camera takes her up and over the sides of cliffs in the film about Zion National Park, "Treasure of the Gods."

"I'm not happy that it's all happened this way, but I've always known we have to progress," she said. "A lot of these things are good for us."

Springdale's theme is to retain respect for the landscape on which Springdale exists.

And the community does this by preserving green space, by creating zoning ordinances that don't allow the place to get overbuilt, by creating sign ordinances that only allow messages to be posted out of materials that blend in with the environment.

And slowly, surely, with consensus, Springdale has sailed out of debt and into financial fitness on this feel-good philosophy.

  • Springdale merchants recorded 33 percent more retail sales in 1997 than during the same period in 1996. In contrast, St. George improved by only 1.4 percent during that time.
  • Similarly, Springdale direct retail sales, service and business purchases increased nearly 16 percent over the previous year. In contrast, St. George merchants claimed 6.5 percent more sales during this time period.
  • Services grew by 10.5 percent in 1997, according to the Utah State Tax Commission.

Composing himself

Bimstein feels his philosophy is helping to shape Springdale.

He introduced himself to his now hometown community through music. He wrote songs about the people, about the land. Still does.

Terry Tempest Williams will be featured in "Refuge Quartet." The author's words, rhythms and vocal tonalities will be blended with music and bird sounds.
"Dark wind rising" is about a Paiute Indian tribe in Arizona that rejects a toxic waste incinerator project.

Sounds made by frogs, crickets and a solo oboe are mixed in the composition "Half moon at Checkerboard Mesa," a favorite Zion site.

He got a grant from a New York organization to write music that celebrates the Utah landscape, and he wrote "Grand Staircase," in honor of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Is Bimstein too new age? Too over the top? The majority of townspeople must not think so. He was re-elected last November.

"He keeps things interesting," said Twitchell, who loves the events Bimstein has brought to town. "Some of the mayors we've had before have really gotten us into trouble. (Bimstein) got us out of debt."

"We've had some ups and downs, but it's always been a nice place to live."

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