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The City Journals

Jordan River Commission reports improving waterway conditions to Taylorsville City Council

May 18, 2017 11:57AM ● By Carl Fauver

Volunteers help to keep the Jordan River corridor clean. (Jordan River Commission)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

The recent Salt Lake County decision to build a new homeless shelter near the Jordan River—at 1000 West 3380 South—has a lot of South Salt Lake City residents up in arms.

But for the Jordan River Commission, it’s simply their most recent challenge.

“We're hopeful we can work with the County and State to make some additional investments in this section of the river corridor,” said  Commission Executive Director Laura Hanson. “(We want) to help improve the current trail experience and mitigate any potential impacts from the proposed shelter.”

At a recent Taylorsville City Council meeting Hanson offered her annual report to elected officials, discussing challenges ranging from homeless residents camping along the river to puncturevines that wreak havoc on bicycle tires.

The Jordan River Commission was created in August 2010. The organization’s website says, “it was created to … serve as a technical resource to local communities and to provide a forum for coordination of planning, restoration and response development along the Jordan River corridor.”

Hanson has been with the commission nearly from the beginning, hired in March 2011.

“Last year, volunteers worked about 16,000 hours along the river corridor,” Hanson told the council members. “Our commission membership includes 14 cities and three counties (Davis, Salt Lake and Utah) along with two state agencies and other organizations. But it’s our volunteers who truly do the hands-on work.”

The Jordan River enters Taylorsville at 5400 South, along the city’s eastern border with Murray. It flows out of the city at about 1000 West 4000 South, into South Salt Lake City.

While the planned homeless shelter is several blocks north of Taylorsville, Unified Police have already reported an ongoing problem with transients camped along the river.

Earlier this year, police conducted a raid along the river near 4100 South. “We gave the people who were illegally camped in the area lots of warning,” said Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant. “It was a safety hazard. We found about 80 empty propane tanks in the area.”

Hanson says the commission is not directly involved in removing homeless people from the Jordan River corridor, but they do work to help keep foliage trimmed down, making it more difficult for transients to hide their encampments.

During Hanson’s presentation, Taylorsville City Council Chairman Brad Christopherson raised another ongoing concern with her.

“Many people have complained to me about the puncturevine problem on the Jordan River trail,” he said. “They continue to cause a lot of flat bike tires.”

Hanson said the commission has had a lot of success battling the vines with insects.

“We buy puncturevine weevils from a California insectory,” she said. “They come to us in cups and we use volunteers to disperse them into the vines. When the weevils lay their eggs, they burrow into the vines causing them to die. Unfortunately, the weevils can’t survive our winters, so we have to do this each year.”

Hanson also told city council members about a couple of projects they are working to complete along the Jordan River, north of Taylorsville.

Along the river at North Temple in Salt Lake, work has begun on a foot bridge spanning to 200 South.

“When this $6 million bridge is completed, we believe our Jordan River trail will be the longest improved trail in the country, at 120 miles,” she said. “The current record is a 112-mile trail in Minnesota.”

Because the bridge will tie such a vast trail together, river commission members have begun calling it the “Golden Spike Bridge.”

Also, much closer to Taylorsville City, the Jordan River Commission is continuing to make improvements on Pioneer Crossing Park. This new 20-acre site—on the west side of the river, north of 3300 South—will include a picnic pavilion, boardwalks, an amphitheater and camping areas.

Although it is very near the planned new homeless shelter, the park is on the opposite side of the river—and the opposite side of 3300 South.

The Jordan River Commission has four paid employees and operates on an annual budget of just under $300,000. Funding sources include annual membership fees paid by cities, counties and other members along with grants and private donations.