If you’re thinking of retiring in St. George…
Southwest Utah and the city of St. George are havens for outdoor buffs and for retirees.
When Ivy Ruckman first searched for a warm, scenic place to retire 10 years ago, she didn’t have to look farther than her own state of Utah. The novelist moved to St. George, a small city nestled in Utah’s southwest corner, about 300 miles, south of her residence in Salt Lake City.
Today, she lives in an adobe home on the outskirt’s of St. George, where the one-story houses are far apart and designed to blend into the scenery. Surrounded by red rock cliffs and desert sage, the house gives Ms. Ruckman the proximity to nature that she wants.
“The coyotes howl almost every night, and a bobcat has been seen on patios during the day,” says Ms. Ruckman, age 75. Since there are no streetlights in the development,. the evening sky, she adds, is crowded with stars. “It reminds me of growing tip in Nebraska 50 years ago.”
St. George, founded by Mormon pioneers, sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert and boasts the same sunny and dry climate as Las Vegas or Phoenix. With its stunning vistas and high temperatures averaging in the mid-50s in December, the city has long been a haven for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts who golf and hike.
Now, those same features are attracting growing numbers of retirees. Local officials welcome the interest, for the most part. “If aging is an industry, then we are clearly positioning ourselves for it,”
says Russell Behrmann, president of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce. But the influx, as is often the case with popular retirement destinations, comes with a price.
Increasingly, “there’s traffic, big box stores and tract homes,” says Doug Miller, 78, who with his, wife,
Cleo, retired to the area 17 years ago. “That’s a negative.” For first-time visitors, the landscape
can make St. George’s growing pains easy to. overlook. Six rational parks and recreation areas, including Zion National Park and the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and numerous state parks are within a few hours drive. The area has 11 golf courses, and skiing is available just 80 miles north
at Brian Head.
St. George is part of Washington County, and fully 80% of the county’s 2,427 square miles are public lands. “I think of this as a hub city from the standpoint of recreation,” says Jim Godfrey, 65. Even with the warm climate, he notes, there’s easy access to winter sports.
Mr. Godfrey learned about St. George when he came to participate in the Huntsman World Senior Games, a competition for athletes age 50-plus held in the city every October. He and his wife, Terrie, 63, who still participates in Huntsman track and field events, sold their Cypress, Calif., residence and bought a retirement home here in 2004. About one quarter of new arrivals in the area hail from California. Between July, 2002 and July 2006, Washington County’s population jumped 30%, to 134,899, according to state officials. In the 12 months ended in July 2005, almost 4,000 homes went up. Housing costs, too, are climbing. In 2006, the price of a new home in Washington County averaged $337,913, up 22% from a year earlier, according to Utah Association of Realtors.
Wall Street Journal – Saturday/Sunday, May 12 – 13 2007