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The City Journals

Open house for open spaces gives community a voice

May 14, 2018 04:29PM ● By Josh Wood

Cottonwood Heights city planners answer questions from residents during the open house for open spaces. (Joshua Wood/City Journals)

By Joshua Wood | [email protected]

The next step in Cottonwood Height City’s plan for trails, parks and open spaces took shape during an open house for public input on April 26. The call for public input was the second round of a process intended to inform the city’s future approach to establishing and protecting open spaces.

As residents entered a large, sunlit meeting room in City Hall for the open house, they found three stations awaiting them. Each station included a map illustrating priorities derived from initial public input collected in November 2017. The lines and highlighted areas on each map showed suggested trails, parks or natural open spaces that over 100 respondents put on their collective wish list for the community. Next to each map was a table and large pad of paper where residents could add further input into the process.

“This is a follow-up from November when we got a general sense of what people wanted,” said Andy Houlka, associate planner for the city. “We’ve tried to group those together into general ideas and find out which ones are more important and what we’re missing.”

The city collected all the input they received in November and grouped them into categories for the community to then prioritize during the second open house. This gave participants the opportunity to express their specific priorities for the city’s open space initiatives. In effect, people could vote for the options they liked most and add ideas that may not have received attention during the first phase of the public input process. 

The topic is a priority for Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Peterson.

“As a mayor, I have a unique background in parks, trails and open spaces,” Peterson said. “It’s a personal passion of mine that we do all we can to preserve and enhance open spaces.”

The city plans an 11-member parks, trails and open space committee to lead efforts to implement the plan derived from public input.

As residents collected around the tables in City Hall, they shared their various concerns.

“We moved here 54 years ago because it was so beautiful,” said resident Vera Winn. “Will our voices be heard?”

City planners were available throughout the event to hear out residents as they expressed their hopes for the community, their concerns and their questions about the process. 

“This is the very beginning, so this is where public input matters the most,” said Senior Planner Michael Johnson. “This will lead to a plan that the city council will adopt and we can start implementing.” 

With so many voices and a wide range of priorities among community members, the city’s challenge is to sort through the input and the available resources to create a coherent plan that takes all the competing realities into account. 

“The emphasis we want to convey is that to really make a difference, we need to have a policy document in place,” Johnson said. “We need to have that direction in place before we can start allocating resources to get there.”

City planners have communicated with neighboring cities and community groups like the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Coalition to coordinate their planning efforts in areas in which their jurisdictions meet. 

As the process moves forward, the input collected from Cottonwood Heights residents will help shape the city’s efforts to establish and protect the parks, trails and open spaces the community values.