This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Mormon church is going to Disney World.

The church-owned Deseret Ranches is going through the bureaucratic process in Florida to win approval to transform rural farmland, used for 65 years to raise cattle, into a metropolis of a half-million residents within a 133,000-acre corner of Osceola County, not far from Orange County, the home of the world-renowned Disney resort in Orlando.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the project would be the biggest development ever planned in Florida. The Sentinel reported the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a statement saying the development would cause no "adverse impacts" to water, wetlands and wilderness.

But other state agencies are not so sure and want a more detailed review of the project's population densities on what is now ranchland southeast of Orlando International Airport.

Deseret Ranches is a for-profit cattle operation begun by the LDS Church in 1950. It originally covered about 54,000 acres in central Florida, but it grew over the years to 312,000 acres and reportedly became the world's largest beef ranch.

Eric Jacobsen, general manager of Deseret Ranches, says turning portions of the ranch into a residential and commercial development is simply a practical business decision.

"Population estimates for central Florida through 2080 project expansive growth — and that growth will likely include ranch property and resources. As ranchers, we know how important it is to plan ahead. We're not developers, but we expect to be fully involved in what the ranch will look like over the next 50-60 years," Jacobsen said in a statement.

"Our plan is to maintain our agricultural operation for the long term. Generations from now, Deseret Ranches will still be doing what we love – growing food and caring for the land. But, as a major property owner in this region, we also feel a responsibility to work with local governments and other stakeholders in the area to understand and shape how the property will fit into the larger context of expected growth. As growth heads our way, it's important we identify and deal with forces that will impact the property to ensure the ranch can meet its long-term objectives, while assisting the region in dealing with pressure on resources like land and water."

What's in a name? • While officials of Dixie State University, and most residents of St. George, steadfastly oppose calls to change the college's name because of the slavery and Jim Crow past it represents, the Dixie community has no problem gutting the name of an icon whose name was to be forever attached to the high school's baseball field.

Dixie State psychology professor Dannelle Larsen-Rife recently wrote a guest editorial for the Spectrum newspaper in St. George calling for the name change in the wake of the killing of nine black church-goers in South Carolina and that state's subsequent move to remove the Confederate battle flag from its Capitol.

"This is not about political correctness. It's about a public institution having a name associated with hate crimes," Larsen-Rife wrote.

But Dixie officials said they have no plans to change the name, and a survey a few years ago showed the vast majority of St. George residents want to keep it.

Not so, though, for Don Lay, the late beloved coach at Dixie High School whose name was to cloak the school's baseball field forever, according to a resolution announced by the school in 1987.

The sign over the baseball field for nearly 30 years has read: "Coach Don Lay's Flyer Field." According to the resolution, that name was to remain "as a perpetual designation of his contribution to the Gold, Blue and White of Dixie High School."

But a new baseball field has been built and the Don Lay name will not be part of it. The new field is named, simply, "Flyer Field."

A group of Dixie High School alumni circulated a petition to pressure school administrators to keep Don Lay's name at the field. But it won't happen.

Lay began his career as a basketball and baseball coach at Dixie High in 1966. He coached for 21 years before retiring in 1987.

"He [Lay] knows that for an athlete to get recognition he has to be part of a winning team," the 1987 resolution said. "Because his teams were winners he has had several players move onward to college and professional sports," the most famous being Bruce Hurst, a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in the 1980s.

So, for respecting history in the southwest Utah hamlet of St. George, it's Dixie yes, Don Lay no.

comments powered by Disqus