Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
John Daley Reporting Those running This is the Place Heritage Park describe their financial predicament as being stuck between a rock and a hard place, which has led them to vote to lease some land to pay for ongoing operations there. However, neighbors aren't pleased, and they're asking for more time to find another solution.
The chair of the park board tells us selling a small part the 450-acre park will not harm it. But neighbors disagree. They're speaking out at a meeting, saying they're not ready to trade open space for office space.
Mormon pioneers first arrived here in 1847, and it's one of the few places in the capitol city that still looks more or less like it did back then. But unlike most living history centers around the country, This is the Place has no endowment, and has been plagued by financial challenges.
To rectify that, the board of the park's foundation voted to lease property adjacent to the University of Utah's Research Park to blood clinic ARUP. Park officials declined our request for an interview, but Matthew Dahl, executive director of This is the Place Heritage Park, told us by phone, "This is our attempt to use some of our assets as an endowment."
The plan is to build on these 12 acres, including more than 400 parking spaces. But neighbors and other concerned citizens are worried about both the historic and natural impact. Bryan Jensen, with the Sunnyside East Neighborhood Association, says that the park is the end of the Mormon trail, and leasing the land will only hurt the park. "We're concerned that leasing space for an office building that will raise $400,000 will not necessarily ensure the viability of the park," Jensen said.
Board chair Ellis Ivory says there are no plans to go beyond this proposal. He said, "We've made it very clear to the University of Utah. We'd never recommend a diminishment of the acreage. This is a one-time deal."
Neighbors are skeptical. Diane Barlow, who is on the Sunnyside East Community Council, said, "It's the most historic park to tell about Utah in the whole state, and I cannot believe that they would even consider eliminating that piece of the property."
The state parks board will hold a public hearing about this on April 19 in Salt Lake City. The next day the State Parks and Recreation board is expected to vote in St. George on the lease deal.