Jordan river Parkway Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, File

What the 10 key themes of 'Reimagine Nature' might mean for Salt Lake City's outdoors plan

By Carter Williams, | Posted - Apr. 30, 2021 at 12:08 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Public lands leaders for Utah's capital city are close to finishing up the latest round of feedback for the future of the city's public lands projects.

The second phase of "Reimagine Nature," or the Public Lands Master Plan, began earlier this month. This week, leaders of the Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands held an online forum to discuss the latest updates regarding the ongoing project and promote ways to improve the master plan.

The department launched public feedback for the project last year to view what kinds of things residents wanted with their outdoors master plan for the next two decades.

Division officials found 10 key themes from the results. Those were:

  • Making it easier to find parks, trails and public spaces through better signage
  • Completing regional trails and investing in greenways that better connect mountain trails with trails closer to valley creeks and the Great Salt Lake
  • Transform parks into vibrant community space and empower residents to invest in a neighborhood's identity
  • Help parks "come alive" with more activities and events throughout the year
  • Invest in projects that promote and improve access to Jordan River recreation
  • Improve telling "past and present stories" about the diversity of experiences residents have had
  • Increase green and active spaces in downtown Salt Lake City
  • Increase awareness about tree stewardship and plant more trees in publicly owned areas
  • Create "appropriate" alternative uses for public golf courses
  • Cultivate more biological diversity in parks, including more educational opportunities about plants and wildlife

Under the second round of public feedback, which began earlier this month and wraps up in the first week of May, the city is asking people to review how they feel about the current direction the city has taken on the 10 areas that emerged from the previous survey. The survey then asks to review how important or urgent the 10 categories are.

"Based on that feedback, we'll prioritize projects for implementation," said Kristin Riker, director of Salt Lake City Public Lands, during the online forum Wednesday. "The master plan will include strategies and actions for each of the 10 transformative projects."

It's the second of three community engagement windows. A third and final round of public feedback as a part of the project is expected later this year as the city completes a draft and then final master plan for public lands and parks.

Overall, the department includes the division of natural lands, such as trails, city parks, urban forests and golf courses. It oversees over 8,000 acres of either foothills or other natural lands, 20 total parks, 108 holes of public golf and more than 120 acres of cemetery land, as well as over 85,000 urban forest trees.

Anna Laybourn, principal at Design Workshop and a consultant for the city, said the purpose of the project is to create long-term planning tools that aim to guide city leaders into making decisions for future projects.

"A comprehensive plan establishes usually a 10- to 20-year vision that considers a range and themes and topics from quality of life to stewardship to equity and some of those in this particular plan," she said.

Riker added that a master plan is traditionally developed every 20 years with an update halfway in.

"It's going to help us plan for the future and the growth of Salt Lake City," she said. "As the city has more people moving into the confines of the city boundaries, we're going to need to consider what gaps do we have in our parks system and where do we need to add space for folk so we can make sure the level of service that you enjoy today in the parks is also available to our kids and future generations?"

Reimagine Nature, in particular, arose from the division's 2019 Needs Assessment, which found that 97% of residents polled found it important for residents to live within a 10-minute walk to a local park. Beyond that, the city found that how public lands are used could help address issues with air quality, climate change and energy inefficiency issues, she added.

During the first round of public input of Reimagine Nature, which began in August, the division collected feedback from over 7,000 people, including nearly 4,500 surveys filled out either online or in person. Riker said the 10 themes that emerged range from having local to regional impacts.

Meanwhile, Laybourn said these could result in all sorts of different projects in the years to come. Future projects could include extending something like the Jordan River Parkway trail west toward the Salt Lake Marina or possibly more nature-based outdoor programming at parks or possibly even turning parts of city golf courses into cross-country skiing or groomed sledding areas in the winter.

Those were a fraction of potential ideas from all 10 of the key themes.

Once the process is approved by the City Council, the master plan will include more precise timelines for projects and funding requests over the next couple of decades, Riker said. She added the funding often comes from the City Council and from impact fees, which is money collected from new development.

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