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What do you think would make historic Pioneer Park better?

Artists paint on a community art truck at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City on Sept. 10, 2019. City officials announced they are seeking public input on ideas for the next phase of improvements for the downtown park.

Artists paint on a community art truck at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City on Sept. 10, 2019. City officials announced they are seeking public input on ideas for the next phase of improvements for the downtown park. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Did you know that Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park, now largely known for the homeless encampments that crop up there each year, marks the spot where Mormon pioneers first stopped on their trek from the eastern U.S.?

Once known as the Old Pioneer Fort, the park at 350 S. 300 West has undergone several changes — before the pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived, it served as a gathering place for Native Americans. It later became a city center, and then a campground for newly arrived residents, before it was dedicated as one of the city's first official parks in 1898, according to the Utah Division of State History.

Now, Salt Lake City wants to reinvigorate the park and is seeking input from the public on proposals that include various recreational features like a splash pad or fountain, dog park, sports fields and courts, and even mini golf.

The city has launched an online survey where people can weigh in.

  • Officials are weighing creating a "playable city," which would use most of the space for "active play" with corners of the park dedicated to recreational facilities and connected to "flexible public space" in the middle, according to the survey.
  • Another option is a "downtown destination," which would also have active play and public spaces on the north and west edges but would retain an open lawn space on a large portion of the park. The concept would include interactive art and a garden grove.
  • Officials are also considering an "urban oasis" with more natural features like an edible garden, a historical display, a water feature and pavillion.
  • The survey gives the public the option to select the existing park conditions as a preference rather than the major changes proposed by the three other concepts.

The survey is available to anyone interested at

"At 10 acres, Pioneer Park is the largest of Salt Lake City's downtown parks. The City's Parks Division believes it should play an integral role in the lives of the people who live, work and visit downtown through vibrant programs and offerings. The park has a long history of being an important gathering place for Native American tribes, pioneers, and more recently, Downtown Farmer's Market shoppers and concertgoers," city officials said in a statement.

"The goal of this process is to develop a site plan for the park that facilitates positive activation throughout the day and week and creates a welcoming neighborhood and community public space."

The project plans are expected to be finalized this year. Construction should begin in 2022 and be complete in 2023.

In 2019, the City Council approved $3.4 million in funding by reallocated impact fees, which can only be used for adding new services to the park. That year, the city also made nearly $1 million worth of additions to the park, including a multipurpose field, new lighting, a looped walking path inside the park, and two dozen sycamore trees lining the sidewalk.

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Ashley Imlay covers state politics and breaking news for A lifelong Utahn, Ashley has also worked as a reporter for the Deseret News and is a graduate of Dixie State University.


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