An Open Space & Wild Places Blueprint For a Great American City
We are making headway in transportation, mobility, economic development, sustainability, and more. But these are only meaningful endeavors if we can continue to enjoy and play in Salt Lake’s beautiful open spaces and wild places. One of Salt Lake’s best attributes is that around any corner, there is a new untouched and natural area to explore. It is important to protect these spaces, while also growing our economy, cleaning our air, and expanding our mobility options.
Protecting our public lands and gathering places has been a centerpiece to my administration. Some of our main accomplishments include:
- Shepherding Mountain Accord
The SkiLink proposal to sell U.S. Forest Service lands in prime watershed and backcountry recreation areas shocked many of us in 2011. In response, our community came together and over 200 stakeholders from every jurisdiction in Salt Lake and Park City sides of the mountains, state and federal governments, and the ski areas and environmental organizations worked to identify generational decisions for the Wasatch Mountains through Mountain Accord. We did it.
On August 3, 2015, all parties agreed to a plan to transfer almost 2,500 acres of private land at the top of the Wasatch Mountains to public ownership. The plan also proposed designating large, new swaths of public lands into special protection area like wilderness. Now, after nearly 2 years of discussions, the ski resorts, the cities and towns along the Wasatch, the State of Utah, our Congressional delegation, and conservationists are ready to move forward and protect our mountains for generations. We have the plan, and now is the time to act.
- Creating opportunities for dogs in our City
Before I came into office, Salt Lake City only had three off-leash dog parks and Parley’s Historic Nature Preserve. Now, our City residents can enjoy seven off-leash areas in all parts of our City and Parley’s Historic Nature Park. In total, Salt Lake City has more off-leash acreage than our peer Cities around the country and the rest of Salt Lake County combined. I recognize the controversy surrounding Parley’s Nature Park, there were major health and safety issues, especially regarding water quality, that needed to be addressed and I appreciated working with users and City managers to identify solutions that could protect the water quality and preserve the nature area given the heavy use of the park. We’re committed to creating similar opportunities in the future.
- Launching “Kids with Nature” program
This program gets kids outside to explore all the wonderful spaces Salt Lake City has to offer. Salt Lake City is part of a national partnership that encourages all school-aged kids in Salt Lake City to get out and connect with nature. Locally, we are collaborating with Tracy Aviary to develop sustainable programs that encourage learning about our natural environment. We have received federal grants and funding to help us push this program forward in the coming weeks and months.
- Expanding Watershed Protections
Since coming into office, Salt Lake City has placed hundreds acres of public land and watershed under protection. Salt Lake City owns the rights to all the water in the canyons and residents in the entire Salt Lake Valley rely upon this water supply heavily. The City is working hard to preserve our watershed by putting regulations in place and making visits to the canyons more enjoyable.
- Nearly completing the Jordan River Trail
The Jordan River Trail has the opportunity to be an incredible asset to all the residents, business, and visitors to Salt Lake’s west side. Since taking office, Salt Lake City has built miles of new trails and connections on the Jordan River trail. Completion of the Jordan River Trail will connect four counties, including: Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber. The river will serve as an incredible resource in the valley that will also help connect our East and West communities and bring them together. Today, there is only one section left to do, from North Temple to 200 S over the Union Pacific Rail lines.
- Restoring Natural Riparian Habitat
The Jordan River used to meander through corridors of marshes, oxbows, and ponds. However, as the area became more urban and developed, the river’s water quality, wildlife habitat, and bank stability had been degraded. In partnership with Salt Lake County and the Utah State Water Quality Board, my administration invested over half a million dollars into restoring four key areas along the Jordan River.
Today, these areas have been fully restored. Additionally, we worked with Salt Lake City Open Lands Program and the University of Utah Lowell Bennion Center to create the “Bend in the River” site which brings volunteers, students, and the surrounding neighborhood together to promote sustainability, restoration, and provide hands-on-learning and youth leadership opportunities.
- Creating Imperial Park in Southeast Salt Lake City
Imperial Neighborhood Park opened in May of this year and provides a place for friends and families in the Southeast part of the City to gather and come together. The space provides an open playing field, walking path, picnic tables, and more.
Mayor Becker’s Blueprint for Open Spaces and Wild Places
- Implement the Mountain Accord. The signing of the Mountain Accord by local governments, business, tourism, State and Federal leaders has created a once in a lifetime opportunity. With a common vision in place, we have the opportunity to set permanent protections for our Wasatch Mountains that will span the generations. There is a lot of work yet to be done, starting with a detailed Environmental Impact Statement by those with experience and expertise to continue to guide our thinking and process. There are complicated land exchanges and a need for continued conversation on how to reduce congestion and traffic in the canyons. We cannot risk going back on the progress and achievements we have made.
- Establish new Federal Protections for National Recreation and Conservation Area. As part of the Mountain Accord, we have a real opportunity to establish a National Recreation and Conservation area in the Wasatch Mountains. National Conservation areas are designated by congress to “conserve, protect, enhance, and manage public lands for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.” While protecting these assets, this designation also ensures access for recreational purposes that so many of us enjoy. Over the last seven years, Mayor Becker has cultivated relationships both locally and nationally, including our Congressional Delegation and the Obama Administration, needed to make this happen. These do not come automatically with being mayor; they take time and commitment.
- Establish a large regional Dog Park and bring more foliage to Parley’s Nature Preserve. We love our dogs here in Salt Lake City. Parley’s Nature Park is an incredible asset, but the park is challenged with being loved by so many, and this exposes the vegetation, wildlife, and water quality to risky conditions. While we’ve made significant progress to balance uses – some of which have been controversial – the best long term solution is to create another large, regional dog park that everyone can enjoy. In Mayor Becker’s next term, his Administration is committed to setting aside large contiguous acreage in a single location that will have a natural and park-type feel for our residents and dogs to enjoy.
- Complete the Jordan River Nature Park. The Jordan River Trail was once a series of disconnected and disorganized trails. Today, you can walk or ride your bike nearly the entire North-South length of the City along the Jordan River. The only part left to complete is between North Temple and 200 South – over the Union Pacific tracks. My administration has already been working with Union Pacific and other stakeholders on this last piece, and we are finalizing the funding for this important project. And in an effort to provide a range of opportunities for people to explore and better immerse themselves in a natural environment, Mayor Becker’s Administration is focused on creating the Jordan River Nature Park. We are working to put in a Nature Center to serve as a hub for interpretive programming, fourteen acres of restored wetlands, open lawn areas for playgrounds and picnic pavilions, as well as create boardwalks and trails for watching wildlife and enjoying the scenery.
- Bring secondary water to all of our managed open spaces. To save money and help preserve water resources for other uses, Mayor Becker’s Administration has or is in the process of converting the water supply for several parks and golf courses to secondary water. This will help improve sustainability of our parks system.
- Create a Foothills Regional Park and Master Plan. Our foothills make Salt Lake unique. Within minutes, our residents, employees, and visitors can escape our bustling downtown and be in a natural environment. Whether it is for a few minutes after work or a full day of activities, our foothills are a wonderful amenity for Salt Lake. In Mayor Becker’s next term, he will work with all the relevant jurisdictions and stakeholders to create a master plan for the foothills and establish a regional recreation amenity that will be the envy of every city and town. We will find ways to increase mountain biking opportunities, places for dogs, and opportunities to hike and picnic in our foothills. We will build on the Bonneville Shoreline and PRATT trail to ensure easy access to our foothills for all in the City. We will identify areas for conservation and wildlife protection and ensure that our foothills remain a natural area. This is a once in a generation opportunity to protect and manage a world-class regional open space amenity that will define Salt Lake City.
- Oppose the Damming the Bear River and any state efforts to tax our Residents to oppose Statewide Water Projects. Without receiving any benefits, Salt Lake City residents will be forced to pay taxes for a statewide water project through the damming of Bear River. Mayor Becker opposes a dam that is bad for our air quality, bad for wildlife in the area, bad for nature, and bad for our residents.
- Complete the Folsom trail, connecting east and west Salt Lake City. The Folsom Trail would link downtown and Memory Grove via a protected multi-use corridor. The Trail would allow users to access City Creek Canyon and the Bonneville Shoreline from the City’s western neighborhoods.
- Expand SLC Explores. The SLC Explores program is underway, and our goal now is to ensure that every school aged child in Salt Lake City has access to the great outdoors. Mayor Becker’s Administration will implement a variety of programs that encourage and promote kids to get out into nature.