SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – On hot, sunny days several years ago, visitors to Liberty Park would have found more than a dozen kids splashing around in the Seven Canyons Fountain.
The fountain was turned off two years ago due to health and safety concerns, and the channels that carried water are dry. But the mayor’s office has a plan to get the water flowing again by next summer.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is asking the City Council for $850,000 to repair and reopen the fountain. She recommends using the capital improvements fund to pay for the project, pending City Council approval late this summer.
The fountain, a piece of public art that was built in the middle of the park 26 years ago, represents the seven canyons that deliver water to the Salt Lake Valley. But it was also a popular splash pad for kids that was just too dirty and dangerous.
“It’s a landmark for Salt Lake City,” said Kristin Riker, deputy director of the city’s public services and director of parks and public lands. “There are actually rocks from each of the canyons in the fountain representing the geology in that area.”
The fountain was designed as an interactive piece of art by architects Boyd and Elizabeth Blackner and artists John Swain and Steven Goldsmith. It was built with a donation from Salt Lake City philanthropist Obert C. Tanner, founder of O.C. Tanner, and opened in 1993.
It’s public artwork that is open and available for the public to interact with and to play in,” Riker said. “This place was packed, and kids just loved to use this.”
Kids and families are still drawn to the area, even though the water is gone.
“It was just a great place for families and kids to come to cool off in the summertime,” said Riker. “It’s dearly missed by our community.”
Two summers ago, the city turned off the water because the fountain no longer met updated health and safety regulations.
“It needed to be shut down so that we could make some improvements,” Riker said.
Families have missed the fountain.
“We come here almost every day,” said Jesse Craner, who wanders through the area with her toddler, Henry, and her dog. She would love to splash in the fountain with her boy.
“I would want to stop and let him play in it, as long as the water is clean,” she said. “I know there were some issues with cleanliness in the past.”
Four critical health and safety issues arose, including reducing the depth of one basin, installing safer drains and adding a secondary disinfection system.
“I would love to see it restored because right now it’s just cement and there’s not really anything to do,” Craner said.
Riker said restoring the fountain is one of the most common requests for Liberty Park.
“I think there’s a great deal of community support for this project,” she said. “People would like to see the fountain reopened. It creates a vibrant center to this park.”
She said a primary goal is to maintain the artistic intent of the fountain, doing their best to meet the expectations of the original artists and architects of the project.
If funding is approved by the City Council, restoration could be completed next spring.