I'm not one of those writers who saturates a story with a sense of place. Yes, I do love a great regional or historical novel which is thusly saturated, but I don't think every novel needs ten pages per chapter of setting.
Even so - even if you are writing a bare-bones bump-and-go adventure screenplay - setting is still extremely important to story. Even if you never mention or describe it. Setting is context. It gives shape and meaning to the other elements. ("A character in a setting with a problem.")
So often the setting is the trigger that brings a scene to life for me as a writer. It is the piece that makes a scene ready to write. I may not know what the characters are going to do yet, but once I know what they want, and where they will be when they want it, the scene flares. The ground becomes a playing board, a battle ground.
This is why, when I realized that there was a sandy trail along the rim of the old gravel pit behind karla's house, a number of scenes suddenly woke up and came to life. Not only was this trail a perfect place for a chase scene, but when you have a truly evocative setting like that, it affects other scenes. A trail like that connects other locations ... and people too. It's the path to town, to the beach, and to a small lake in another direction, and to the woods and the sledding hill. It is where you wold naturally ride your ponies and go cross country skiing. That path is the essence of Potewa county.
And as the story begins to pull together, I see that it also connects us to the perfect place for the climax of the story.