New temple location in St. George ‘well-positioned’ for future community growth

ST. GEORGE — For likely the last time since leasing the land from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eight years ago, Ralph Staheli is tilling the ground to plant a crop on the future site of a new temple in St. George.

Farmer Ralph Staheli walks across lands he’s leased from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the last eight years. He is tilling the ground in preparation for one last crop on the future sight of the Washington County Utah Temple, St. George Utah, Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“I must be confusing the hell out of people driving by,” the 77-year-old Washington City resident said while sitting atop a green tractor pulling a tiller behind it. Over the years, he’s grown myriad crops on the land, including alfalfa, sudangrass and various grains used to feed his livestock.

Plumes of dust whip up behind the tillers as Staheli and a farmhand crisscross the plot located on the corner of 3000 East and 1580 South – the precise location of the new Washington County Temple announced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Wednesday.

Staheli said he figures he can get one last crop planted before the ground is broken for the new temple.

“I’ve mixed feelings about it,” Staheli said after breaking from tilling the ground and grabbing some lunch delivered by one of his sons. “I’m an agriculture boy and don’t like to see farmland go to a pile of rocks.”

Local farmer Ralph Staheli points northward from a plot of ground at the corner of 3000 East and 1580 South in St. George that he’s leased from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the last eight years. From that location, he said he can see nearly 30 LDS church steeples in the distance, St. George Utah, Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Staheli is perhaps best known in the community for the Staheli Family Farm, as well as being involved in development in the area over the years.

Despite his misgivings, Staheli said the new temple will enhance the area and bring more people into a section of St. George and Washington City already experiencing major growth.

“I’ll grow one more crop, and it’ll be the last time this ground will ever be farmed,” he said, adding that he has no doubt the incoming temple will be “magnificent.”

“We’ll enjoy it and live with it,” Staheli said before getting up to continue tilling. “It’s going to make this valley bloom, that’s for sure.”

The area surrounding the new temple location is just one part of over 100 acres the church owns in the Washington Fields area stretching toward Lin’s supermarket to the north, Staheli said.

According to the church, the new temple will be 88,000 square feet in size on a 14-acre lot. The new temple was announced by the church in November 2018, with the location only just coming to light earlier this week in the wake of the historic St. George Temple’s three-year closure for major renovation work.

Traffic on 3000 East near 1580 South where the future LDS Washington County Utah Temple will be built, St. George, Utah, Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Prior to the announcement, there was widespread speculation as to where the new temple would be built. Some guesses placed it in the southern part of St. George by Interstate 15’s Exit 2, as well as in parts of Washington City, Hurricane and several other locations.

“It was fun to speculate where it would go,” Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said. “But that wasn’t up to us, of course.”

The fact the county will be the site of a new temple is another sign of the community’s growth, Iverson said.

That sentiment was echoed by St. George Mayor Jon Pike.

“It certainly reflects a community that’s grown a lot in the last 50 years,” Pike said, adding that the location is “well-positioned for future growth and traffic.”

The city has plans are in place for the area that include additional infrastructure and road construction. The future work will make it easier for people to get to the new temple once built, the mayor said.

Farmer Ralph Staheli has leased ground at 3000 East and 1580 South in St. George from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the last eight years. The ground he is tilling in preparation for one last crop was announced by the church to be the future sight of the Washington County Utah Temple, St. George Utah, Nov. 8, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Within the last five years, traffic signals have been placed along 3000 East as it has turned into one the main arterial roads for that part of the city.

There are future plans to extend 1450 South eastward in a way that will wrap around the temple grounds. On the western end, there are plans to extend the road westward to cross the Virgin River and connect to the Dixie Drive/Exit 5 I-15 interchange.

“That’s going to provide great access,” Pike said.

The city also plans to expand the roadway between 1450 East and 2000 East at a future date.

“Growth demands expansion,” Pike explained.

Overall, Pike said the city of St. George is excited and honored to host a second temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church members consider temples to be the “house of the Lord” and the most sacred places of worship on the earth. While all are welcome to attend Sunday worship services and other weekday activities at local meetinghouses, the primary purpose of temples is for faithful members of the church to participate in sacred ceremonies such as marriages and proxy baptisms on behalf of deceased ancestors.

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