The long-awaited tunnel beneath Salt Lake City’s 1300 East — connecting Sugar House Park to Hidden Hollow Nature Area along Parley’s Trail — opened Friday morning to fanfare from public officials, volunteers and residents looking forward to hiking, biking and skating it.
Known as "The Draw," the tunnel just south of 2100 South has been 15 years in planning and under construction since 2011.
Connecting two pieces of a trail that has been bifurcated by the major commuter roadway represents a milestone, said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
"Parley’s Trail is a [planned] nine-mile trail running from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to the Jordan River," he said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "It’s our first major east-west trail in Salt Lake County."
Portions of the trail under construction between 300 East and the Jordan River are expected to be completed in 2015.
McAdams recognized public and private stakeholders who made the tunnel possible, including students from Hawthorne and Beacon Heights elementary schools.
"This truly is a regional trail," he said. "The project has been funded through a combination of federal, state and local grants as well as partnerships with the community."
Karen Hale, Salt Lake City’s director of community relations, said The Draw eventually will enable Parley’s Trail to connect the Bonneville Shoreline Trail with the Jordan River Parkway.
"This is an exciting time to celebrate this connection," she said. "This provides transportation as well as wonderful recreation."
Hale recalled working with grade-schoolers in 1999. Hawthorne Elementary’s KOPE kids set about to revitalize Hidden Hollow on the west side of 1300 East and the Beacon Heights students began studying ways to connect a trail from Sugar House Park to Hidden Hollow. After a thorough analysis, she said, the kids settled on a tunnel.
It has been a long time coming, agreed Juan Arce-Larreta, chairman of the Parleys Rails, Trails and Tunnels (PRATT) Coalition, whose volunteers worked tirelessly on the project.
"We are proud we’ve reached this moment today," he said. "The passage couldn’t have turned out better."
Arce-Larreta noted that cyclists now can ride from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to Sugar House without encountering automobiles.
Dave Iltis, an avid cyclist and editor of Cycling Utah, was all smiles as The Draw opened.
"It’s an incredible addition to the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County trails system," he said. "It eliminates one of the biggest obstacles from getting east to west."
Business owners, too, welcomed the opening, said Annalisa Holcombe, president of the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce.
"Think of it, people can walk from the park to a restaurant or shop," she said. "It will add to the vibrancy of the Sugar House area. For all of our businesses, it means access."
She noted the safe use of the tunnel and trail will be enhanced by Westminster College students who reside in high-rise housing on the west side of The Draw. "There will be eyes on the trail 24 hours a day."
Still to come on the Sugar House Park side of The Draw is a plaza designed by renowned artist Patricia Johnson. The plaza design is that of a giant sego lily. It also will act as a reservoir and spillway during flooding on Parleys Creek.
Arce-Larreta said fundraising is ongoing for the plaza project. Donations may be made at www.parleystrail.org.
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