Portion of Salt Lake City’s Allen Park will open for the first time in 50 years

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) One of the many mosiac's in Allen Park. All residents of Allen Park have to be out by the end of the day Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

Allen Park has formerly been home to both a bird sanctuary as well as to the thoroughly unique “Hobbitville” community that fell into disrepair. And it was supposed to become a home to, well, homes, as developers had intended to use the seven-acre site for 60 single- and multifamily units.

But when Salt Lake City purchased the tract, which runs along Emigration Creek near Westminster College on 1300 East, for $7.5 million in March, plans were announced to preserve the natural areas and convert some of it into a public art park.

And now, this Sunday, a portion of the park will open to the general public for the first time in half a century.

“The preservation of this one of a kind space in our city is an important milestone for us, and for generations of Salt Lakers to come," Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement. “I am happy that the day has finally come when everyone will be able to see and experience what a special place Allen Park is.”

Upon the park’s purchase, Salt Lake City’s Trails and Natural Lands Division created a short-term plan to open a portion of the land, allowing people to explore nearby forest area, encounter wildlife, and to view mosaic artwork and “historic buildings that had been relocated to the park from across the valley in the mid-1900s,” the city noted in a news release.

Allen Park was originally founded in the 1930s as a bird sanctuary by local surgeon George Allen, who had a habit of opening parts of the park to the public on Sunday evenings. He served as president of the Sugar House Businessmen’s League and the Salt Lake Zoological Society, and was central to the development of both Hogle Zoo and Tracy Aviary.

As of this Sunday, the public will be able to enter Allen Park from the entrance facing 1300 East and walk along Allen Park Drive. It will be open during daylight hours seven days a week, though hours are subject to change in the winter. There is no on-site parking, so patrons are encouraged to use either public transportation (UTA route 220 goes nearby) or to park at Sugar House Park.

The area had been home to an eclectic Sugar House community known as “Hobbitville,” but once the expenses required to fix the neighborhood’s crumbling state outpaced rental revenue, the city stepped in and ordered tenants out by January 2019.

The death of the property’s owner and landlord threw the future of the area into question, especially once there became community opposition to the subsequent development plan, with concerns about traffic, insufficient parking and the loss of mature trees casting doubt on the proposals.

That ultimately led to the city using a combination of park impact fees and stormwater mitigation fees to purchase the property.

“Few sites in Salt Lake City can claim as long and as powerful a hold on the public imagination as Allen Park," said Preservation Utah Executive Director David Amott. “Preservation Utah looks forward to aiding Salt Lake City in restoring, interpreting, and programming Allen Park in the present moment and for years to come.”