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Op-ed: Protect Jordan River Parkway, Utah’s dancing place

By Janalee Tobias

First Published Aug 22 2014 06:24 pm • Last Updated Aug 29 2014 09:35 am

"Take earth for your own large room

and the floor of earth

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carpeted with sunlight

and hung round with silver wind

for your dancing place"

Is there any question where acclaimed Utah poet May Swenson received her inspiration and imagery for her award-winning visionary poems about the universe’s basic beauty and balance of our fragile and miraculous world?

If you had to think about the answer, you need to get out and explore our pretty, great state. Utah is blessed with 21 national parks and monuments and more than 40 state parks within a few hours’ drive. Every one of these spectacular outdoor landscapes is unique, with scenery as diverse as the rippling arcs of rust-colored sand and steep red cliffs of Coral Pink Sand Dunes, the 1,000-year-old kiva in Edge of the Cedars, the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world in Arches National Park and the largest quarry of Jurassic Period dinosaur bones ever discovered at Dinosaur National Monument.

Utah is a paradise for boating, biking, backpacking, bird watching, caving, camping, fishing, floating, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, golfing, walking, running, racing, skiing and sightseeing.

There is another natural treasure in Utah: The Jordan River Parkway. This crown jewel was recognized in 2011 by America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative. The parkway received this prestigious recognition because it flows through Utah’s three most populous counties, where more than one million people are within a half hour of experiencing the riparian vegetation, abundant wildlife and the graceful, magnificent birds along the transcontinental Western and Central migratory bird flyways.

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Access to wild nature in urban areas, especially surrounding pastoral waterways, is critical so that as many kids as possible can connect with nature. There is something magical and healing about experiencing the earth’s warm energy and wildlife in its natural habitat, especially as youth become increasingly more connected with their electronic gadgets.

There are a large number of people who can’t afford more than a tank of gas for a vacation. I know this because I’ve been fighting to preserve the Jordan River and its surrounding greenbelt since 1996 and hundreds of folks have contacted me to express their love and devotion for the Jordan. One of the most impressive sentiments came from a young girl who earned money so that she could donate a $100 bill to save Mulligans Golf Course and Games (www.savemulligans.com) located along the Jordan River from a proposed monster development. The Jordan River is a supremely important avian resource visited by more than 200 bird species.

There is a very ugly inequality between the beautiful state and national parks in Utah and the Jordan River Parkway. These parks have been afforded protection from development. Even though the parkway has received national recognition, Salt Lake County’s Blueprint Jordan River identifies more than a dozen proposed commercial developments along the precious remaining green space surrounding the Jordan River.

I know I speak for thousands of citizens when I plead for city, county, state and federal governments to help protect the remaining open spaces along the Jordan River.

Janalee Tobias is a conservative political activist who prevailed in a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) against land developers who sued her for $1.7 Million to stop her efforts in trying to protect the Jordan River.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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