Salt Lake City officials want to infuse an unprecedented amount of money into public lands, but they will need voters to get on board first.
City Council members voted last week to put an $85 million bond on November’s ballot, giving residents of Utah’s capital a say in whether to back a critical funding source for the city’s long-range “Reimagine Nature” plan for parks, trails and open spaces.
“This is the largest one-time investment in our park system in city history, and I’m thrilled to have my name on it,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Monday. “It’s a big, bold vision that our residents want and need.”
Mendenhall said the city’s polling shows 70% of respondents support spending new tax dollars on public lands. Use of parks and trails skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor said, and has not waned.
If voters sign off, the bond would raise property taxes on the median-priced home of $576,000 by about $54 a year. That jump would be in addition to the city’s proposed rate hike, which would boost taxes on the same home by about $90.
Council members adopted the 20-year “Reimagine Nature” plan in June. Public hearings for the bond are scheduled for Oct. 11 and 18.
Council Chair Dan Dugan said the bond proposal is a response to resident calls for more open spaces.
“One way to get there,” he said, “is by investing money into it.”
The largest chunk, $27 million, would go toward replacing the shuttered Raging Waters amusement park at 1700 South and 1200 West with Glendale Regional Park. The park would add 17 acres to the city’s public lands portfolio and increase access to open space for west-siders.
Another $9 million would improve tree canopies, plant biodiversity and recreational opportunities along the Jordan River.
The city suggests putting $4.5 million into the east side’s Allen Park for upgrades like stream restoration. Another $10.5 million is proposed for unspecified parks, trails or open space projects, with at least one project for each of the city’s seven council districts.
City officials want to put $6 million into developing green space at the Fleet Block in the budding Granary District. The structures on the southwest corner of the intersection at 800 South and 300 West used to serve as the storage and maintenance facilities for the city’s fleet and have long been eyed for redevelopment.
“I’m a huge proponent,” Dugan said, “of another park in that area.”
An additional $2 million, meanwhile, is proposed to fully replace the playground in the city’s showcase Liberty Park.
Officials want to funnel $5 million each to improve Fairmont Park and complete the Folsom Trail. The trail would connect the Jordan River Parkway to downtown with walking and biking paths, and receive new landscaping under the city’s proposal.
The remaining $16 million from the bond would be set aside for unexpected expenses.
The council will have to budget for each project if voters approve the funding.