According to preliminary findings from scientists at the University of Utah, the air in Salt Lake County was about 50% cleaner than normal during the last two weeks of March during the pandemic shutdown. With fewer cars and trucks on the roads, it was truly exhilarating to inhale the fresh, sparkling air for a change.

But there are powerful voices in the Utah Legislature who created the inland port and want to take us in another direction from clean air. Using our tax dollars, they are providing subsidies for the development over the next few years of vast warehouses and other facilities for this massive distribution and manufacturing center. The port’s operations will require thousands of daily truck and car trips, railroad yards with diesel locomotives, and numerous air cargo planes at all hours. This constant activity will load our atmosphere with nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

The port will also need huge quantities of scarce water. Developers say it will be a “green” port, but their claims have no merit. Moreover, they are charging ahead even though a substantial 5.7 earthquake occurred recently within port boundaries.

There is another vision. Instead of more sterile buildings, streets and asphalt parking lots, why don’t we find the money and determination among our citizens to purchase this land from its present owners and create a beautiful nature preserve? This preserve would have walking trails, bicycle paths, fishing docks in the wetlands, and gazebos for bird watching, sunsets, stargazing, and picnics. Habitat protection would be a large part of it, as well.

We now have an opportunity to set this land aside in perpetuity for the welfare and enjoyment of present and future generations of the people of the Salt Lake valley.

And, at the same time, help to make the air we breathe better, not worse.

James King, Salt Lake City