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SALT LAKE CITY — Workers in recent months unearthed the point where water from three Salt Lake Valley creeks merges with the Jordan River, an area that has not been seen by anyone in at least a century.
Soon that point will be a new feature along the Jordan River Parkway in Salt Lake City's Glendale neighborhood.
The Three Creeks Confluence project is nearing completion after several years of planning to "daylight" the point where the waters from the Emigration, Parley's and Red Butte creeks connect with the river. The confluence point had been covered up by concrete for at least a century, according to the nonprofit Seven Canyons Trusts — a large supporter of the project.
The project is on pace to be completed later this spring after some pauses in construction midway through 2020, according to Tyler Murdock, a project manager for the Salt Lake City Public Lands Division.
The project was originally influenced by a group of University of Utah students who had begun to focus on "daylighting" various Salt Lake City streams. Daylighting is the process of restoring rivers, creeks or other natural waterways that had been buried, usually by human-made projects, and restoring waterways to their natural state.
"The purpose of it is to kind of restore, highlight and activate a unique geographic location on the Jordan River," Murdock said. "It's really a unique hydrological location for Salt Lake City that for many years has been hidden and buried."
He said he began working on the project about as soon as he started working for the city in 2015. Since then, there were community engagement sessions and other planning that went into the project. For instance, since the confluence was essentially located underneath 1300 South, the city needed to vacate a right of way for some of the street, Murdock explained. It also needed to acquire properties for the project to happen.
The project design phase began in 2017. Construction on the project began last year after funds for the $3 million project were secured and all the delicate items in planning fell into place.
Murdock said there were some delays midway through the year due to streamflow but it resumed again during the fall and carried into the winter.
In addition to unearthing a section of concrete that was above the confluence, two bridges were put in place that allow passage over the Jordan River and the confluence.
"(The confluence bridge) will get you into some lower areas near the water, where you can connect with the water (with) fishing areas," Murdock said.
He added there will be a new 1-acre public park that "really highlights the unique geographic area," as well as a plaza/recreational space and a small natural play area by the confluence. The project is still on track to be completed in mid-to-late May with a possible grand opening ceremony in June, COVID-19 situation pending.
It likely won't be the end of the project, though. Murdock said the current work will be the completion of the first phase of operations in the area. The city recently acquired a nearby historic home that is going through structural feasibility studies that could turn into a park amenity in the future.
The Three Creeks Confluence project also isn't the end of new city investments along the Jordan River. For instance, the city added new boat ramps along the river last year. There's also a project to turn the Fisher Carriage House into a recreation hub located adjacent to the river several blocks north of the confluence.
"I think I'm really excited for what this means for the Jordan River and the future of the Jordan River," Murdock said. "(Three Creeks Confluence) is one of the largest investments that Salt Lake City has made into the Jordan River corridor and the Glendale neighborhood in a nature and habitat perspective.
"And I think it's only the beginning of what can happen along the Jordan River in creating a space we are all proud of and want to be on, and recreate and take our kids to that for many years hasn't really received the attention that I believe it deserves."