Mayor Becker’s ‘Connecting You to Nature’ Proposal Seeks Major Investment in City’s Parks, Trails and Open Spaces

Mayor Ralph Becker announced today he is requesting that the City Council place a $125 million to $150 million bond measure on the November ballot to fund his 'Connecting You to Nature' plan, a wide-ranging package of improvements to the City’s system of parks, trails and open spaces.

The plan is built around the concepts of Active Parks, Revitalized River, Connected Trails and Urban Nature and is designed to reflect feedback from a recent, extensive public engagement process.

Connecting You to Nature is a once-in-a-generation chance to take our parks and recreation opportunities to the next level,” said Mayor Becker. “People told us they love their City and love their parks, trails, and open spaces, but they want more of them. Connecting You to Nature will meet that need and be a true game-changer for Salt Lake City.”

The sweeping proposal was prompted in part by residents’ changing recreation priorities and led to the Mayor’s and City Council’s decision to plan for closure of the Glendale and Jordan River Par 3 golf courses and redesign them with amenities the City currently lacks. The changes also help put the City’s golf program on a path to fiscal health. Years of citizen requests to implement projects identified in master plans and to create unique, new recreation opportunities were also factors in taking a broad look at how to improve the City’s parks, trails and open spaces.

Here’s what is in the plan

The Mayor’s complete recommendation to the City Council is available at Key aspects of the Connecting You to Nature proposal include:

Active Parks – A reimagined Glendale Regional Park with water-oriented activities, a mountain biking course, recreated wetlands, “Great Lawn” for multiple recreation uses and other amenities. The Jordan River Nature Park will focus on opportunities for users to explore and immerse themselves in a secluded natural environment. A fund will be created to improve downtown parks and acquire land for new ones.

Revitalized River – New investments along the Jordan River will build on past improvements to further unlock the recreational potential of this valuable asset and will help return the river to its naturalized state. In addition to the water-oriented recreation amenities that the two new parks will provide, new boat ramps and docks for canoes and kayaks will be developed, as will a portage area allowing boaters to traverse the Gatsby Diversion at approximately 100 South. Streamside improvements along the length of the Jordan River between 2100 South and 2500 North will include natural-surface pedestrian trails, trail safety improvements, one or more bicycle/pedestrian bridges over the river and native landscaping. 

Connected Trails – New and improved paved and unpaved trails will connect existing and new parks to each other, to the Jordan River and Wasatch Mountain foothills and will provide new ways to reach downtown on foot and by bicycle. The 9 Line Extension will create a long-sought east-west connection from the Wasatch Mountains to the Jordan River, linking the river parkway with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.  A new Wasatch Connector will provide an east-west trail from Wasatch Drive to Foothill Drive through Bonneville Golf Course. The Folsom Trail will link the Jordan River Parkway to downtown and Memory Grove, allowing easy access to City Creek Canyon and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail is set for a significant makeover from Emigration Canyon on the south to the northern City boundary, where the trail continues into Davis County. 

Urban Nature – Every project in the plan will be designed to bring a more nature-oriented, sustainability-focused experience to the City’s parks, trails and open spaces. Once the plan is completed, residents will be able to make a quick trip to the Jordan River Nature Park to birdwatch, kids will have opportunities to learn about the river ecosystem, hikers, and mountain bikers will benefit from better trails and interpretive signage in the foothills and urban trail users will value landscaped trails that are separated from streets where possible. To improve the sustainability of the City parks system, several parks and golf courses will be converted to use secondary water, rather than the drinking-quality water we now use. This will save money over the long run and help preserve water resources for other uses.

The funding proposal

At open houses during the public outreach process to identify a package of projects, residents said they are willing to pay more in taxes to fund new amenities. That was borne out in a recent opinion poll in which 90 percent of respondents said they very or somewhat strongly support investing in parks, trails and open space improvements. When it comes to how much people are willing to pay, a third of poll respondents said they’d pay $10 a month or more for improvements and more than 60 percent of respondents said they’d pay $4 a month or more.

To pay for the Connecting You to Nature plan, the Mayor has asked City Council Members to place a 21-year bonding proposal on the November ballot, which would allow citizens to vote for a new generation of parks, trails, and open space opportunities.

The recommendation includes two funding levels for improvements – $125 million and $150 million for the Council to consider.

•The $125 million bond proposal would cost the owner of a house valued at the City average of $273,000 about $5.15 a month; a commercial property valued at $1 million would pay $34.32 a month.

•The $150 million bond proposal would cost the owner of a house valued at the City average of $273,000 about $6.18 a month; a commercial property valued at $1 million would pay $41.19 a month.

•The annual operations and maintenance costs for the $125 million package of projects is estimated to be $2.9 million; annual O&M costs for the $150 package is estimated to be $3.3 million.

What happens next?

The Becker Administration will formally present the Connecting You to Nature proposal to the Council at its July 21 meeting. The Council will then continue reviewing the proposal, seek feedback from various community groups and interested residents, discuss issues with the Administration and potentially make adjustments to the plan.

The Council will decide whether to place the bond proposal on the November 3 ballot at its August 18 meeting.  If approved, ballots and voter-information materials will be mailed to voters on October 3. Salt Lake City is conducting a vote-by-mail election this year, with limited voting locations available on Election Day.