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The City Journals

Resuscitating the County’s Heart—Town Hall Update on the Jordan River Parkway and a Nod to South Salt Lake

May 08, 2019 02:56PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

A section of the Jordan River Parkway. (Wikipedia)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected] 


If you held a stethoscope up to Salt Lake County (SLCO), Mayor Jenny Wilson says we would find the County’s would-be happy place, beating faintly at the moment, but beating nonetheless, conserving its energy for a near-term metamorphosis, along the stretch of the Jordan River.

The Jordan River is the heart of the County, and thanks to the recreation zone established by the Legislature two years ago, the County’s heart is going to be receiving much-needed resuscitation.
Wilson shared the message Wednesday May 1, with a group of residents, elected officials, and SLCO staff, assembled at the Salt Lake County Complex for stop four of a five-site cross-county town hall.

Another resuscitated area of the County, “near the heart of Salt Lake City,” per the Mayor, South Salt Lake (SSL), also received air time, as she praised the up-and-coming nature of the city and complimented its elected leadership, some of whom were in attendance at that night’s town hall, and others who attended the previous night’s town hall at Millcreek Library.

Stops one through three on the cross-county tour had the Mayor and a cadre of SLCO staff and “electeds” visiting the Southwest Quadrant at South Jordan’s Equestrian Park and Event Center; then Draper’s Senior Center; and most recently, Millcreek’s Library.

Stop four—on County’s home turf

Stop four, at the State Street County Complex, felt different. 

SLCO employees, operating on their home turf and not needing to lug materials to and from cars and buildings, seemed more relaxed. It was also a town hall where varied constituents came from out-of-area to assemble at County Government’s usual locale.

The format for each of the town halls comprised an hour of mingling and discussing against the backdrop of a mini SLCO trade show, complete with table-top booths, highlighting various County services. The next hour featured a short County presentation, with introductions of elected offices taking the first half-hour and question/answer with Wilson filling the last half-hour.

At the County Complex, Wilson spoke for a bit, then turned time over to Associate Deputy Mayor Dina Blaes, who gave a comprehensive update of what the County has been up to with the Jordan River Parkway.

Tapping the heart of the County

The Jordan River Parkway is an approximately 45-mile stretch running along the Jordan River. The urban park traverses the river from Utah Lake in Utah County, accompanies the river through Salt Lake County, and then terminates at the Great Salt Lake in Davis County.

The Parkway includes a mixed-use trail for cyclists, skaters, and joggers. There is a separate equestrian path, as well. The Parkway enjoys intersecting with numerous trail-heads, both city and county parks, and other green spaces such as golf courses. 

The Utah Legislature established the area from Highway 201 to 4500 South as a Recreation Zone, and approved funding to make the area recreate-able.

“We thought it was an appropriate opportunity to master-plan,” Blaes shared, indicating the County owns 250 acres of land in the stretch.

Blaes leveraged her experience in community development with downtown Salt Lake and decided that healing the heart required specialists—many specialists.

On the River’s Edge - Adding a ‘transplant’ to traditional master planning

To engage the community and get ideas from across the country, in concert with its partner, The Jordan River Foundation, the County elected to host the “On the River’s Edge” competition.

“The purpose of the competition is to re-envision a mid-valley section of the Jordan River Parkway” according to the On the River’s Edge website.


“Let’s really push the envelope,” is how Soren Simonsen, executive director of the Jordan River Commission and member of the SLCO Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, describes SLCO’s strategy.

In order to “become better stewards of the Jordan River and the Jordan River Parkway,” Simonsen told City Journals in a follow-up interview, SLCO looked to add a transplant to the traditional master-planning process to truly innovate.

“Salt Lake has a really incredible design community,” he acknowledged. “We wanted to tap into the best ideas to inform the master plan.”
 
The competition received 28 registrations from across the country, including California, New Jersey, Washington, and, en masse, Utah.

From these initial registrations, designers, engineers, landscape architects and urban planners will assemble innovative ideas to re-imagine the area in terms of five key areas: activation; connectivity with surrounding communities; recreation in terms of year-round, multi-use opportunities; conservation of habitats and ecological functions; and economic prosperity in terms of future development.

“A balance between recreation, conservation, and economic development” is what the County is seeking for the master plan, Blaes shared.

Entries are due at the end of this month. Next month, Salt Lake residents will have the chance to vote online for their favorite projects and provide additional input on the project, and a panel of 13 experts, ranging from elected officials to academics to entrepreneurs will select winners of the biggest prize monies. Salt Lake residents are the best experts, and will be able to cast votes at https://slco.org/on-the-rivers-edge.

The competition offers $20,000 for the winner of a “Jury Award,” $4,000 for the winner of the “People’s Choice Award,” and an additional $2,500 for “Innovation” for best-in-class ideas for each of the five categories.

South Salt Lake City—‘A city on the rise’

One city at the County’s heart is South Salt Lake City, which is the site for one of three Homeless Resource Centers to replace the Road Home homeless shelter downtown. At the County Complex town hall, the Mayor spoke of SSL in a way unlike any of the other cities on the tour.

“South Salt Lake,” she said, pausing, “It is so close to the heart of downtown, and just by its geography and proximity to Salt Lake—it is a city on the rise.

Mutual admiration is the case of Salt Lake County (SLCO) and the City of South Salt Lake (SSL). SLCO Mayor Jenny Wilson teams up, literally and figuratively, with SSL City Councilwoman Corey Thomas for County-City win-win. (Photo Credit: Salt Lake County)

 


“I have met with other mayors about their challenges and opportunities,” she reflected. “South Salt Lake has more—or as much—potential as any community.”

“The South Salt Lake partnership has been great for me,” added Wilson. She spoke about teaming with the city on library projects and “an aviary center of sorts,” with “the first-phase opening being not too long from now.”

“We are very grateful,” indicated SSL City Councilman Shane Siwik, who was in attendance at the town hall, along with council colleague Corey Thomas.