SALT LAKE CITY — City officials on Tuesday evening gathered to celebrate the most recent additions to Pioneer Park — with more changes to the downtown green space on the way.
The newly completed updates, aimed at improving safety and drawing more people to the park, include a multipurpose field, new lighting, a looped walking path inside the park, and two dozen Sycamore trees lining the sidewalk.
The nearly $1 million worth of additions, along with another recently approved $3.4 million in city funding, give the city “the opportunity to make Pioneer Park what it should be: Salt Lake City’s premier urban core green space,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said at Tuesday’s event.
Salt Lake City broke ground for the park renovations in August 2018. At the time, Biskupski described the updates as “the beginning of a new era for Pioneer Park,” a space that has long struggled with a prevalence of homelessness and drug dealing.
On Tuesday, Biskupski said she envisions the multipurpose field in particular as “an anchor in the downtown community, activating this space like never before.”
The park has undergone decades of “architectural, neighborhood, and social changes” since it was dedicated 121 years ago, transforming and evolving over the years to meet “the changing needs of the surrounding community,” noted Lisa Shaffer, public services director for the city. Past features included a swimming hole, pavilion and baseball field.
Now, Shaffer said, Pioneer Park — “the only park in our ever-expanding, increasingly-densified downtown core” — must continue to evolve to meet the needs of a growing Salt Lake City.
Nearby, some vendors at the Downtown Farmers Market in the park said they were cautiously hopeful about the changes.
“There’s been a lot of gentrification, which is a good thing for this neighborhood,” said Brian Watkins, who has worked at the farmers market for nearly 20 years. “I think the park should reflect that.”
Jarrod Weeks, another longtime vendor, said he was waiting to see how often the multipurpose field is utilized.
“I think it’ll end up depending on whether people use it,” Weeks said. “If people like it and use it, it’ll be a good thing for the nearby businesses and the community.”
The field and other additions cost just short of $1 million, with $300,000 provided by the Pioneer Park Coalition. The remaining funding came from the City’s Capital Improvement Program and the Redevelopment Agency.
The updates were the result of four years worth of community outreach and study, Biskupski said. Councilman Charlie Luke described Tuesday’s dedication ceremony as “a long time coming” for the city.
“It has not been easy,” Luke said of the renovations. “Any time you’re going to redesign a very heavily used park in the middle of our city’s core, it is going to be complex.”
The redesign process isn’t finished yet. The City Council recently approved about $3.4 million in funding for more proposed updates to the park, which could include new restrooms, information kiosks, concessions, amenities such as a splash pad, and infrastructure to support musical performances and other cultural activities.
Going forward, Shaffer said city officials will be turning to the public for feedback to determine what exactly the next phase of renovations will look like.
“We’re excited to see this transformation,” said Dave Kelly, public relations director for the Pioneer Park Coalition. “We’re excited to see the continuing steps ... and to see where it heads.”