Salt Lake City's $85M parks and trails bond soars in early election results

Demolition at the old Raging Waters and Seven Peaks water park site in Salt Lake City continues on Aug. 30. The space will be home to the Glendale Regional Park, which stands to receive $27 million from a bond on the Salt Lake City ballot.

Demolition at the old Raging Waters and Seven Peaks water park site in Salt Lake City continues on Aug. 30. The space will be home to the Glendale Regional Park, which stands to receive $27 million from a bond on the Salt Lake City ballot. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — It appears residents of Utah's capital city are overwhelmingly behind an $85 million general obligation bond to fund more parks and trails projects.

The proposal holds a 69% to 31% lead among nearly 37,000 counted ballots, as of Wednesday afternoon. It's unclear how many more votes are outstanding.

The vote won't be official until this year's election results are certified on Nov. 22.

"They're not complete yet but we're very happy with what came in," said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Wednesday, appearing on KSL NewsRadio's "Jeff Caplan's Afternoon News." "It was reflective of the polling that we did leading up the (city) council's budget decision earlier in the summer — we were polling at about 68 to 72% support from our residents. It was great to see that come through (on election night)."

If the results don't change, Salt Lake City property owners will begin to see a tax increase in 2024. This increase is about $54 for a median-priced home valued at $576,000, city officials project. The increased property tax will remain in place until the bond is paid off, which is expected to be in the next 20 years.

But the mayor says it's possible that residents won't see too much of a difference because of other finances happening at the same time.

"The fact that we will be pulling it out in a couple of chunks over several years as we spend down and build projects — it likely makes that amount far less for our residents," she said. "At the same time, we're paying off other bonds from decades in the past. So it's very possible that our residents will not see any impact whatsoever to their property taxes, depending on when we pull that money out and what we're also paying off at the same time."

A large chunk of the money generated by the bond — about $27 million — will go toward the new Glendale Regional Park that will replace the old Raging Waters/Seven Peaks water park in Salt Lake City's Glendale neighborhood by 2024. The bond offers significantly more funding than the $3.2 million the project has at the moment.

Katherine Maus, a public lands planner for the Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands Department, explained last month that the bond revenue helps to speed up the process of completing the desired park projects.

But the bond also generates new funds for other parks, trails and open spaces across the city. The bond also puts:

  • $16 million toward contingency funding for any outdoor project in the city.
  • $10.5 million toward neighborhood parks, trails or open spaces. All seven council districts will have at least one project funded with the money.
  • $9 million for improvements to the Jordan River corridor.
  • $6 million toward a new park at the Fleet Block property in Salt Lake City's Granary District.
  • $5 million toward the completion of the Folsom Trail, connecting it with the Jordan River Parkway.
  • $5 million for improvements to Fairmont Park.
  • $4.5 million for improvements at Allen Park. The city, which acquired the park in 2020, is set begin work on a management plan next year that will dictate future uses of the park space, according to the city.
  • $2 million for improvements to the playground at Liberty Park.

Mendenhall first suggested the bond with her 2023 fiscal year budget proposal in May. While much attention was focused on growing popularity of state and federal parks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she pointed out that Salt Lake City's parks and open spaces also experienced a spike in visitation over the past few years.

One city survey found that 43% of residents said they had started using city parks "more frequently" since the pandemic, while 41% said the same about trails.

At the same time, the Salt Lake City Department of Parks and Public Lands compiled a new 20-year master plan aimed at tackling not just the growing popularity of parks and trails among residents but future growth anticipated in and around the city. The department also found that it needed about 94 new acres of outdoor space to avoid overcrowding related to population growth.

Tom Millar, a senior planner for the city, explained during an online discussion last month that regular property taxes generate about $18 million for the Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands annually; however, most of the money goes toward maintaining existing parks and trails. There often isn't enough money to build "new assets" like a Glendale Regional Park or Fleet Block Park, which fueled the bond proposal.

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Utah electionsUtahOutdoorsSalt Lake County
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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