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SALT LAKE CITY — When Mayor Erin Mendenhall attended the opening of a 1,200-foot arch bridge along the Jordan River Parkway Trail in 2017, she knew she wanted the bridge to be named after Robert "Archie" and Lois Archuleta.
She joked the name makes sense given the arch type of bridge, but Mendenhall, who was a city councilwoman at the time, thought of the Archuletas' legacy of education, social justice and community mentorship in Salt Lake City's west side as the primary reason she believed it should be named after them.
"This is the family who has brought community together, who has spanned divides," Mendenhall said. "Their impact has been larger than life and I figured that only something that's 1,200 feet long and 60 feet tall would do as an appropriate namesake for Archie and Lois Archuleta."
Nearly five years later, a group of a few dozen people standing on the bridge cheered Friday as the Salt Lake City mayor fulfilled her goal, proclaiming it the Archie and Lois Archuleta Bridge. A sign will soon be installed on a beam of the bridge, as well as interpretive signage about the Archuletas' lives, according to city officials.
The newly-named bridge plays an important role along the Jordan River Parkway, serving as the final connection that allows for an uninterrupted Jordan River Parkway trail from Davis County to Utah Lake in Utah County. Before the bridge, anyone using the trail had to use roads from the end of one trail segment at North Temple to the start of another segment at 200 South in the Fairpark and Poplar Grove neighborhoods.
The gap meant those on the trail had to cross a set of heavily-trafficked railroad tracks. It took 18 years to plan, design and construct the bridge over the tracks on privately-owned land to close it.
But the importance of the Archie and Lois Archuleta Bridge is only growing because it's located at the center of new recreation opportunities and even another trail that links the Jordan River Parkway with downtown Salt Lake City.
The city recently added a new small boat launch ramp at the southern end of the bridge by the Fisher Carriage House that is being renovated to serve as a new city recreation center. Mendenhall also proposed a new sales tax bond in May that would include renovations to the adjacent Fisher Mansion.
Earlier this month, city officials opened the Folsom Trail that would also be extended out toward the Archie and Lois Archuleta Bridge with funds from another proposed city bond. These bonds would also end the use of train horns on the west side, which the mayor pointed out after she was interrupted by a train passing underneath the bridge Friday.
It only made sense to name it after the Archuletas, who reshaped the city's west side neighborhoods for the better in a similar fashion. Archie Archuleta first moved to Salt Lake City in 1953, where he taught at an elementary school on the city's west side before becoming the principal at the school. Mendenhall rattled off a list of community organizations that Archie Archuleta and his wife, Lois, would go on to either launch or participate in over the span of six decades.
Salt Lake City leaders honored their lifetime work with a key to the city in 2018 before Archie Archuleta died at the age of 88 in 2019.
"You can't talk about the west side without talking about the Archuletas," Mendenhall said, calling it "bittersweet" that the naming of the bridge happened after his death. "I know his work truly lives on in you, in all of us, the thousands of students he taught, the untold number of children and adults he mentored and the peaceful mark that he left in every community he worked in. Archie and Lois were a dynamic team."
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is one of the many adults that Archie Archuleta mentored.
She recalled the moment she won an election to serve as the secretary of a Latino student group at the University of Utah. Archuleta, impressed with Romero's successful campaign, asked her to serve as student representative for Utah Coalition of La Raza, one of the organizations he served in. It set her on her path to becoming a state legislator.
"I am who I am now today because of Archie Archuleta and Lois Archuleta," Romero said. "To see this bridge named after them is amazing."
In case you missed it, last week we celebrated the soon-to-be named Archuleta Bridge. Lois and Archie Archuleta have been beloved advocates and educators in the Salt Lake City community. We recognize their immense contributions to our Westside neighborhoods. pic.twitter.com/h4w7wquIjA— SLCgov (@SLCgov) June 21, 2022
Tyler Murdock, the deputy director of Salt Lake City Public Lands, said more "community assets" like parks, open spaces and trails will be named after people with ties to close the community they are in, like the Archuletas and Salt Lake City's west side. That recommendation is included in the department's 20-year master plan the City Council approved last week.
He hopes that the new signage coming to the bridge will help those who cross it learn about and feel inspired by the Archuletas' story.
"It's so amazing to hear the stories of Archie, to meet his family members," he said. "It's truly an honor."