Wharton: Residents would benefit from Salt Lake County parks bond
As his eight years as mayor of Salt Lake County wind down, Peter Corroon hopes to finish with a legacy as a builder of parks and trails.
That's why he feels so strongly about the passage of the $47 million parks bond that county voters will approve or disapprove on Nov. 6.
"This has been on my list for eight years to get more parks and trails built in my community," said Corroon. "It would be nice to get these projects under way. I would rather build more parks than jails. If we can keep young children doing productive things, that is a lot cheaper than buying jail beds."
In some ways, this bond is the second phase of investment that began with a 2006 open-space bond. When voters approved that measure, the county bought $24 million of new park land that included property for regional parks in Draper and Kearns. This bond would allow the county to put facilities on that land.
Corroon said regional parks are usually 60 to 80 acres in size. Think Liberty, Sugar House or Dimple Dell parks. They usually include multipurpose sports fields, pavilions, restrooms, splash pads, walking and exercise paths, open lawn areas, baseball and softball diamonds, natural areas and tennis and basketball courts.
"What we will do after the bond is passed is to go back to each of these communities and talk to them about what they want," he said. "Not everybody may need a tennis court. They may want a ball diamond or water splash pad instead."
Major trails that serve the entire Salt Lake Valley and parts of neighboring counties might also be finished with passage of the bond.
The mayor said the $11.5 million designated for the Jordan River Parkway, for example, would likely be enough to finish the four remaining gaps in the trail, thus completing a 45-mile pathway through Salt Lake County that also connects Davis and Utah counties.
"People like the trails and are really using those trails," said Corroon. "I was down at the Jordan River Parkway last weekend with my son. There was plethora of people using the trail, biking, running or walking. Some people looked like they were just walking home from work."
Another $9.5 million would all but complete the Parleys Trail connecting the Olympus Cove area with the Jordan River. The trail would be built in conjunction with the Sugar House Trolley Train, creating a linear park running east and west.
The final $5.5 million in the bond would be used to buy new park property in the Magna area.
The bond, which would cost the owner of a $238,000 home $5.73 a year, isn't exactly what Corroon had in mind. He would have preferred a more ambitious $123 million, but the County Council declined to put that on the ballot. What will appear is the compromise proposal that included the major projects the mayor hoped to complete.
"We recognize we are still in a tight economy but, at the same time, this is also the best time to be building because of low interest rates, low construction costs and the continued need to put people back to work," said the Salt Lake County mayor, who is not running for re-election. "If we are going to build these parks in the next 10 years, we're not going to find a better opportunity or construction environment in which to build them. My job is to plan for the future, not just plan for tomorrow."
Whether county residents buy into this vision is another matter. But having two major trails and two regional parks completed for about the cost of a combo meal at a franchise drive-in seems like a bargain.