Salt Lake City has big plans for replacing Raging Waters — and you can help shape them

A large regional park akin to Liberty Park is envisioned. It could include playgrounds, kayaking, skating, skateboarding, a pool, a beach and grassy areas for festivals.

Every weekday morning, Ifa Motuliki goes to a church in his Glendale neighborhood, where there are two pickleball courts.

A year ago, the thought of pinging plastic balls of a solid paddle didn’t cross his mind. He was more of a tennis player. But now, at 70, Motuliki can’t run as fast, so he has taken up a new racket. And he loves it.

And when Salt Lake City solicited ideas for a regional park, located a mere minute from his home, he knew what he wanted: more pickleball courts on the west side.

“We travel to West Valley. We go to Murray, too,” he said. “We only have two courts here [at the church]. And it’s too small for us. So I’m hoping that they will consider [building] those courts.”

The park would be located at the former home of Raging Waters, a wildly popular water park in its heyday located on 17 city-owned acres at 1700 South and 1200 West.

The attraction (at times called Wild Wave and Seven Peaks) fell into disrepair and shut down in 2018. It became an eyesore and attracted vandals.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Oct. 29, 2020. In the 1980s, Raging Waters water park was a popular summer attraction. The property eventually fell into such disrepair that Salt Lake City began demolishing it.

Now the site hosts a demolition crew, making room for a spacious regional park (think Liberty Park, sizewise) along the Jordan River to be connected to Glendale Park, South River Park and the Glendale Golf Course.

Since last fall, the city has been working to create a park that aligns with Glendale’s identity. It allocated $3.2 million for the first phase (expected to be ready in fall 2024) and is exploring funding sources for future plans.

“There’s a lot of cultural change happening in Glendale right now and a lot of development and just change in general,” said Turner Bitton, chair of the Glendale Community Council. “I think that a project as big as the Glendale Regional Park can be a way to capture the culture, the identity, and really set a path for the future of Glendale.”

So what should the park contain? Two options have emerged.

One alternative is dubbed “The Great Outdoors,” highlighting the natural assets of the nearby Jordan River. It calls for a community garden, community plaza with concessions, nature playground, ice or roller skating ribbon, trails for biking and hiking, kayak rentals, a naturalistic water feature, riverside boardwalk and a water play feature.

(Salt Lake City Public Lands Department) Concept A: "The Great Outdoors." Amenities include 1) Community gardens, 2) Community plaza with concessions, 3) Nature playground, 4) Ice or roller skating ribbon, 5) Trails for biking and hiking, 6) Kayak rentals, 7) Lawn and natural planting, 8) Naturalistic water feature, 9) Riverside boardwalk and 10) Water play feature.

A second option is “The Glendale Green.” It would include a food truck court, playgrounds, ice or roller skating ribbon, climbing and fitness features, an overlook platform and hiking hill, skateboarding features, a lawn for performances and community events, an outdoor pool, enhanced boat dock, riverside beach and a dog park.

(Salt Lake City Public Lands Department) Concept B: "The Glendale Green" would include: 1) Food truck court, 2) Playgrounds, 3) Ice or roller skating ribbon, 4) Climbing features, 5) Fitness features, 6) Overlook platform and hiking hill, 7) Skateboarding features, 8) Lawn for performances and community events, 9) Outdoor pool, 10) Enhanced boat dock, 11) Riverside beach and 12) Dog park.

Whatever is chosen, residents want the park to be a welcoming and safe space for the community to gather for, say, yard sales or festivals.

“What will likely happen is the final plan will be some combination of those elements,” said Nancy Monteith, senior landscape architect with the city.

“One of the first things that I hear the most,” Bitton said, “is that it needs to be disability-friendly and all abilities-friendly.”

Seniors also desire a well-lit walking path that provides a sense of safety.

Motuliki and others want to add six to 10 pickleball courts to the wish list. This would be in addition to the eight tennis courts present in Glendale Park, which is expected to connect with the regional park.

Monteith noted west-siders also would like to see improvements alongside the Jordan River. Right now, invasive species trees block a view of the waterway. The project could create a better connection to the river.

“People got excited about it,” she said, “whether or not it was developing a river beach or implementing a kayak rental or a boardwalk.”

This new regional park is near the new Three Creeks Confluence Park, which also hosts a boardwalk along the Jordan River Parkway and includes bridges and banks to fish or enjoy the water.

Other water features — be it a splash pad, interactive water play, a natural water feature or a swimming pool — also rank high in interest. These amenities, though they include water, won’t amount to a reincarnation of Raging Waters.

Residents can still weigh in via an online survey until April 16.

In the future, the city and the community council expect to incorporate art that reflects Glendale’s culture of diversity and inclusion.

“If the regional park were built without community input, and without Glendale residents being at the center of the planning,” Bitton warned, “...it could potentially impact gentrification if we don’t really use this opportunity to reinforce the culture of Glendale.”

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.