Water released from upstream reservoirs to manage the spring snowmelt runoff has temporarily transformed Sugar House Park into Sugar House Pond. Sort of.
The park serves as a detention basin — or temporary holding space — for Parleys Creek flood control. As Salt Lake City Public Utilities releases water from Mountain and Little Dell reservoirs to make room for increased runoff as the weather warms, Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation closed the park to cars on April 22, according to a news release. They anticipated water would overflow the banks of its existing pond and cover parts of the road that loops through the park — and that’s exactly what happened.
Wednesday evening, brown water submerged the road on the west side of the park, as onlookers gathered to take photos and ducks roamed their expanded watering hole. Officials predicted runoff could cause the pond to rise as high as 4 feet. Patrick Leary, the county’s associate parks director, said water levels Wednesday were higher than they’ve been this season.
Leary expected the park would be closed to cars through the weekend, and officials would check with Salt Lake City Public Utilities on Monday to determine when it may re-open to vehicles. Public utilities said in a news release that they were anticipating higher stream flows through the weekend and early next week because of warming weather.
These increased flows will be noticeable at Sugar House Park, Parleys Historic Nature Park and Hidden Hollow, according to public utilities, who added that city crews will be ready to deploy sandbags should flooding become an issue. Laura Briefer, public utilities director, said in the release that Salt Lake City’s infrastructure “will have the capacity to accommodate the forecasted stream flows.”
Sugar House Park is still open to pedestrians, but Kade Moncur, Salt Lake County flood control division director, warned visitors to be careful, saying the runoff from Parleys Creek will be “moving fast” and “cold,” adding the standing water at the park “will be deeper than you expect and can be very dangerous.”
Salt Lake City sought permits to construct a detention basin at Sugar House Park in 1982, public utilities spokesperson Chloe Morroni said. In addition to that park, other detention basins in the county include the Creekside area of Big Cottonwood Regional Park, Ben Franklin/Scott Avenue Park and Wheeler Historic Farm Park. All are “part of long-standing plans to mitigate and lessen the impacts of spring runoff,” the county tweeted.
As the weather warms and flood concerns grow, county officials are looking for volunteers to fill sandbags Friday and Saturday in Midvale at the “Sandbagging Shed” at 604 W. 6960 South. The event will run from noon to 4 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.