Ogden City, a blooming metropolis of an estimated 83,793 people, according to a 2012 U.S. Census report, currently has no community councils in place to serve the diverse population.
Turner Bitton, Ogden City Council hopeful and Weber State University alumnus, wants to change that. During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Bitton, along with Ogden residents Paige Pitcher and Shalae Larsen, gave a presentation on community councils and why the city should recognize neighborhood-organized grassroots groups.
“Essentially the concept is to bring neighbors and members of our community in to help implement the goals the council has set forth,” said Bitton during the meeting. He said the main goal of forming a community council is to “focus on building community identity.”
Bitton and other community members said they would like to see the Ogden neighborhood commonly referred to as East Central, renamed the Trolley District for its historic precedence. Bitton said that, by forming a community council with members serving from this specific vicinity, community goals such as improving parks and obtaining neighborhood markers will be more easily realized.
The Trolley District also hopes to file as a nonprofit organization. Larsen said she believes that, whether or not the city recognizes the organization, “we think we can do a lot of good for our area.”
During the presentation, Pitcher, who owns a home on Historic Jefferson Avenue, said community councils are a “happy phenomenon” of people asking to help their city leaders.
“Look, we can help, we can do more, and I think you will find that it’s not just in the East Central or Trolley District community,” Pitcher said.
Council member Doug Stephens showed his support for the idea of community councils springing up in different neighborhoods in Ogden.
“I think it’s important for the citizens to be involved, and that’s how we develop the community,” Stephens said.
Currently, Bitton said, the Trolley District is in the forming stages, but has 47 supportive members. Its Facebook page has 117 likes, with support increasing on “average with 5-10 likes per day,” according to Bitton.
Bitton said the goal of the Trolley District community council is working with Ogden’s city council members and dovetailing the city’s efforts of improving neighborhoods.
“We think that, by having a group of active and engaged people talking about the positives of this area, that it will attract folks,” Bitton said.
East Central, an area of Ogden that spans from 30th to 20th Street and Washington to Harrison Boulevard, is one of Ogden’s most densely populated vicinities. Approximately 2,000 people rent, own, work and play in East Central.
Although commonly referred to by the same name, the streetcar, or downtown trolley project and study funded by UTA and Ogden City, is not related to the Trolley District community council.
Larsen, co-author of the book “Ogden’s Trolley District,” lives in a Queen Anne–style Victorian home in East Central that she has been restoring for 12 years. She said Trolley District’s broader vision for Ogden is “every community should have that same sense of identity and pride in their own areas. . . . If we can work hand in hand with the city, and have this open two-way dialogue with the city, they can say, ‘What do you as citizens want to see happen?’ and then also help make it happen.”
She added that she is optimistic about the potential relationship between city and community councils. “We have probably the greatest distance to go, but at the same time the most passionate people involved.”
The Trolley District will hold its next public meeting on Feb. 5 at 2604 Jefferson Ave. at 7 p.m. Community members, WSU students and the general public are welcome to attend.