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SL Costume Building

Daylighting Report

DAY∙LIGHT∙ING (verb) - the act of uncovering an underground waterway by bringing it to the surface and, typically, restoring to a natural state.


Current Conditions

As Emigration Creek runs west, its waters slip into an underground pipe just outside Westminster College’s campus, at Wilson Avenue. The creek was dubbed a nuisance by decades of city planners during 20th Century urbanization of the valley. According to research by the Seven Canyons Trust, approximately five miles of Emigration Creek are buried. Additionally, five miles of its aboveground channel are impaired under the Clean Water Act’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters, according to Salt Lake County’s 2015 Integrated Watershed Plan. Loss of green space and water quality impairments, due in large part to creek burial, have left many without access to nature or connectivity.

Water quality issues persist because of inadequate management. The piping and channelization of creek channels has sped up water velocities, increasing erosion and sedimentation. Urban runoff, high in nutrients, has caused harmful algal blooms in downstream affected communities, a public health risk for children and pets, a detractor of recreation and agriculture, and an ecological disaster for wildlife. Culverting transports nutrients eight times further downstream (Effects of urban stream burial on nitrogen uptake 247). Revitalizing creeks will address water quality impairments, flooding, economic vulnerabilities, and quality of life, in the larger rehabilitation of Salt Lake City.

The Emigration Creek culvert, from Wilson Avenue to Liberty Park, experiences frequent seasonal flooding, especially at the Wilson Avenue headgate. Salt Lake County recently updated the input. However, work is but a band-aid solution for easing pressure on the stormdrain. The culvert is undersized through this section and can become highly-pressurized in high creek stages. Most notably, blowing-off manhole covers in the 1983 floods.

Emigration Creek at Westminster College.

Emigration Creek at Westminster College.


Case of Support

From Zürich, Switzerland to Hutchinson, Kansas, communities across the globe are transforming antiquated stormwater systems with green infrastructure to benefit resiliency, environmental integrity, and quality of life. The benefits of daylighting are far-reaching. New channels create a nexus between surface water, or creek water, and the ground to facilitate recharge. Groundwater is an increasingly important source of drinking water for Salt Lake County with climate change uncertainty and a growing population.

Creeks slow down water velocities, when compared to smooth concrete pipes, through meanders and woody, rough banks. Stormwater culverts create choke points and can pressurize during precipitation events. Evidence from floods in 1983 suggests culverts became obstructed with flood debris, rocks, even entire trees, coming from the canyons. This resulted in back flooding, which eventually spilled onto the streets. Although residents took advantage of this time to canoe and fishing on State Street, the event costed Salt Lake County approximately $34 million. In July 2017, a 200-year precipitation event expanded the capacity of the conveyance system. The flooding was disastrous in the Ballpark neighborhood of Salt Lake City, primarily around 1300 South. A major culvert runs down this street, conveying stormwater, as well as Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks to the Jordan River. The culvert was unable to handle the stormwater input, along with the already present creek water, resulting in property damage and delays.

Emigration Creek and the downstream Jordan River fall on the Environmental Protection Agency’s 303(d) List of Impaired Waters. Water quality impairments include nutrient loading, low dissolved-oxygen, temperature, and total suspended solids. Nutrients attach to sediment. As sediments are deposited, vegetation soak in nutrients. Contained in culverts, waterways lack the ability to deposit sediment and sustain plant communities. By daylighting, harmful algal blooms can be lessened in downstream, underserved communities along the Jordan by retaining nutrients at the source.

Algal blooms in Utah Lake.

Algal blooms in Utah Lake.

The Salt Lake valley’s hydrology is a critical stopping point for neo-tropical migratory birds on the Central Flyway, connecting South America to Canada. Riparian vegetation supports the nesting and breeding of these world-travelers. Additionally, an estimated 80 percent of Utah’s species rely on riparian areas. However, these habitats represent a meager 1.2 percent of the City’s total land area (Salt Lake City Riparian Corridor Study 14). New creek channels can enhance habitat value and support more biodiversity for Utah’s fauna. Moreover, the urban tree canopy and presence of water can cool surrounding air temperatures and reduce the urban heat island effect drastically; an oasis in the intense heat of Utah’s summers.

Beautiful creeks can improve economic conditions of neighborhoods. A University of North Carolina study found that properties adjacent to habitat restoration sites increased, on average, by $3,100 (The land value impacts of wetland restoration 3). When turning surface parking into a flowing creek, it is easy to imagine this number could become much higher.

Developers can improve bottom lines. Potential tenants would likely see the creek as a delightful amenity. Nature-starved urban residents and children will have newly restored access to nature. Much research has shown that nature is critical to the development of children and the mental and physical health of adults. The creek will become a place to relax or read a book. A place to celebrate. Additionally, daylighting efforts can facilitate surrounding development to create livable, walkable neighborhoods that improve quality of life.

Numerous Salt Lake City plans have envisioned daylighting, dating all the way back to the 1962 Second Century Plan. In that vision, a daylit channel of City Creek would flow “southward toward Downtown and tied into the green areas and tree-lined boulevards of the core” (Second Century Plan 14). The Salt Lake City Riparian Corridor Study lists daylighting as a key opportunity and objective. Plan Salt Lake references daylighting under Natural Environment Initiative 1 to “preserve natural open space and sensitive areas to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem functions through: restoration of aquatic and riparian corridors and habitats (including daylighting of streams and water corridors)” (Plan Salt Lake 27). The Downtown Plan “encourage[s] the continued ‘daylighting’ of creek[s] to link the mountains with the Jordan River…” (Downtown Plan 73). Other plans for Salt Lake City, such as Salt Lake County’s Integrated Watershed Plan and Stream Care Guide and the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s Life on State, among many others, all recommend daylighting.

Maps from the turn of the 20th Century depict Emigration Creek flowing very closely to its current alignment. It is likely that the creek was culverted within its historic channel. By uncovering the creek, homage is paid to the creek that sustained the settlement of this neighborhood in our oasis on the edge of a desert. With efforts to restore the historic sense of the SL Costume Building and signage, the creek could add an extra historic and cultural narrative to this fantastic project. By harnessing the history of place – where the creeks once flowed freely – this project will become a demonstration for additional efforts to uncover the County’s 21 miles of buried waterways.

The Seven Canyons Trust has begun efforts to uncover 1,000 feet of Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park and 200 feet at the Three Creeks Confluence, downstream of the SL Costume Building. With $1.2 million dollars secured, the Three Creeks Confluence – where Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks enter the Jordan River – will be the first on-the-ground demonstration. Daylighting within this development can magnify current work on the creek, furthering connections between the Wasatch Mountains and Jordan River. There is an abundance of surface parking lots in the neighborhood. Parking lots at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Mimi’s Bakery on either side of the SL Costume Building parcel present future opportunity areas for daylighting.

Design rendering to daylight Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park.

Design rendering to daylight Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park.



Dolph Creek - Headwaters Apartments

Portland, Oregon





Length: 1,000 feet

Cost: $200,000

Inspiration: Community Amenity, Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat

Developers tore down an old, dilapidated building in preparation for a large development in Portland’s Multnomah neighborhood. A utilities check found an unpermitted culvert running through the center of the parcel. Upon further research, City employees found old maps referring to the waterway as Dolph Creek. Just beyond the property the culvert flows into Thornton Creek.

By taking advantage of existing development, site disturbance, and construction crews, approximately 1,000 feet of creek was uncovered for $200,000. Rocky Mountain Institute’s Daylighting: New Life for Buried Streams estimates daylighting costs an average of $1,000 per linear foot. Utilizing existing crews to excavate the channel, costs were drastically reduced. Fill material was included with other construction debris to reduce dumping costs or used on-site.

The development retains all stormwater. Green infrastructure, bioswales, rain gardens, pervious pavement, and green roofs, work to clean runoff before entering the stormwater system. Additionally, senior and affordable housing was included. The creek provides easy access to nature for these vulnerable populations. The project received a Silver rating from the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.


Thornton Creek - Water Quality Channel

Seattle, Washington





Length: 800 feet

Cost: $14,000,000

Inspiration: Community Amenity, Economic Development, Water Quality

An overflow, surface parking lot, adjacent to a suburban-style mall, in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood sat empty for much of the year. New transit-oriented development initiatives highlighted this area due to its adjacency to a regional Bus Rapid Transit station. Urban runoff, from the adjacent surface parking lots, was increasing sediment loads and degrading water quality in nearby Thornton Creek.

With a focus on water quality, the daylighting project used a series of swales and ponds to desilt and retain nutrients in the runoff. Catchment basins slowed water velocity to reduced downstream erosion and flooding. Vegetation has improved the habitat value of the area, while soaking up nutrients through their roots. The project has made tangible benefits to improving water quality.

The project costed the municipality approximately $14 million. However, it has facilitated an astounding $200 million worth of surrounding mixed-use development. The developments took advantage of the interesting, walkable green space, now filled with nature and art installations. All in a former surface parking lot.


Preferred Concept



The preferred design concept proposes to push the existing parking lot approximately nine feet to the east. By freeing up space, a portion of the flows of Emigration Creek can be brought to the surface in its historic channel. The 75-foot creek would buffer parking from the building, creating an area for tenants to enjoy the waters, relax, and celebrate. The concept would beautify the development and create a pleasant break in the asphalt and concrete-dominate east entrance. There is approximately 13 feet of right-of-way for tenants to navigate through the parking lot and for backing out. Further research shows standards on this vary. The average seems to be about 15 feet. For smaller vehicles, 13 feet is sufficient space. Larger vehicles may occupy parking spaces on the south-side of the building. Signage can be used to clarify. Two feet can be taken from the creek and giving to parking, if necessary. No parking spots would be lost in the process.

There are several design options to lift the creek to the surface. A sculptural fountain would pump water to the surface to then flow into the creek. An Archimedes Screw, a low-energy pumping option, would present a more natural selection. Two screws along the Jordan River are used by Salt Lake City Public Utilities to lift water; the technology is tried and trusted. Lastly, a second culvert could tap the existing Emigration Creek upstream to allow for gravity flow into the creek channel. While this option would not require any energy costs, it would be expensive to construct.

The desired amount of water would be chosen based on channel dimensions. By tapping the culvert, rather than outright uncovering, water levels are highly-controlled. Other than surface runoff from the parking lot, no more water beyond the desired amount would enter the channel. By keeping the existing Emigration Creek culvert in place, any flood concern would be mitigated.

A small floodplain, with riparian plantings, would create a dynamic feature in precipitation events. The floodplain would clean water and filter pollutants before entering the stormwater system. An ADA-accessible boardwalk would connect tenants to the parking lot. Additionally, a paved pathway at the north end of the creek connects tenants directly to the building’s entrance. Benches and seating areas would create pleasant gathering spaces. All other amenities and site designs are preserved, beyond the proposed.

By taking advantage of site disturbance and construction crews, costs can be cut drastically. While crews are rehabilitating the building, as well as upgrading the parking lot and alley, the channel can be cut; an easy process with existing heavy equipment. One challenge with the project will be how to tap the existing culvert. However, with an open and collaborative partnership between Salt Lake County Flood Control, Salt Lake City Public Utilities, the Seven Canyons Trust, and the developers, challenges can be overcome. Rather than spending millions to undue past mistakes, this development presents an exciting opportunity to uncover Emigration Creek for a fraction of the cost.

A portion of City Creek flows along North Temple in a small channel.

A portion of City Creek flows along North Temple in a small channel.


Alternative Concept



The alternative design concept proposes to uncover approximately 50 feet of Emigration Creek in existing open space along the north-side of the building. While not in its historic channel, this concept would not require any changes to the site design. The site’s topography allows for a gravity flow westward. An eastbound culvert would bring the waters back to the pipe containing Emigration Creek.

This concept would have the same benefits for residents and creek health. It would also have the added benefit of attracting and educating passersby on 1700 South. It is less likely that gathering space could be included. Benches facing south would look directly at the ground-level unit and those facing north would be hard to access, unless a bridge were included. Alternatively, if gathering space is desired, backless or moveable seating, such as concrete blocks, would allow people to sit in any direction. It is unlikely the creek would take on any runoff from the surface parking lot, unless a pipe directed the stormwater into the channel. Therefore, there would be no stormwater benefits associated with water retention, filtering nutrients, and trapping sediments. Although, these benefits would still apply for the creek water.




Bioswale to capture runoff.

Bioswale to capture runoff.

This type of green infrastructure is a physical landscape element that removes pollution and contaminants simply by catching water. A bio-swale could be a low-cost option to capture some benefits of daylighting. Surface runoff from the adjacent parking lot could be directed into the bio-swale, slowly draining and simultaneously filtering the water into the ground. This would have the benefit of reducing pressure on the stormwater system.


Riparian Garden

Coyote willow seen along the Jordan River.

Coyote willow seen along the Jordan River.

Another option, or in addition to the bio-swale, would be riparian plantings to buffer the parking lot. Species, such as Fremont cottonwood, Woods’ rose, golden currant, and coyote willow, would provide habitat value. Interpretive signage could teach tenants about the importance of riparian vegetation for migratory birds and other Utah species. However, plantings would be water-intensive without a constant water source. Although, the garden would be somewhat of a mitigation planting for the lost creek.


Local Case Studies

Parley’s Creek - Intermountain Memorial Center

900 E 2000 S, Salt Lake City, UT


While not a daylighting effort, this project demonstrations how to preserve a creek in a confined urban environment, without forgoing a natural channel. Gathering space allows employees to visually interact with the creek during lunch breaks; a daily dose of Vitamin “Nature.” Moreover, the creek is not only an amenity for the hospital, but also the surrounding neighborhood.


City Creek - Canyon Road

150-200 Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, UT





The first daylighting effort in Salt Lake City, City Creek was uncovered through the former grassy median of Canyon Road. This project brings only a portion of the flows of City Creek to the surface in an engineered channel. Natural features, such as embedded rocks and vegetation, benefit in slowing water velocities and soaking up pollutants. This effort has improved property values two-fold.


Unnamed Creek - Arlington Park Planned Development

1075 E 800 S, Salt Lake City, UT





This planned development restored an unnamed headwater stream that flows through the parcel. Developers meandered the stream channel among the townhomes in quite a confined space, creating a beautiful and interesting development. Choke with invasive species, the developers used site disturbance to restore the channel and remove noxious weeds to produce an amenity.


Tactical Urbanism

TAC∙TI∙CAL UR∙BAN∙ISM (noun) - Low-cost, short-term projects to catalyze long-term change.





Paint can be used in creative ways to challenge tenants and passersby to think about the concept of buried, culverted creeks. For example, community members assisted in painting a blue, meandering creek channel over top a buried creek running through the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City. A series of prompts, starting with “This would be a good spot for a creek,” guide users through the project and retain interest. Painting efforts are typically short-term to raise awareness for large efforts.


Artistic concrete


A more permanent solution to paint would be the use of concrete to represent the underground Emigration Creek. One idea is to pour concrete into a meandering channel design, coloring it a different shade to stand out. Prompts, simply depicting “Emigration Creek,” could be pushed into the concrete. Another option would be to chloro-plast more intricate prompts, such as poetry or narratives on the history of the creek and neighborhood.




Installation pieces can visually represent the underground waters. For example, an installation at the Three Creeks Pocket Park used three bridges to represent the three underground creeks flowing near the area. One idea is to put a pipe down into the culvert, so residents could hear the running water underneath.




An architectural or artistic fountain can bring creek water to the surface. This would allow residents to experience the water and creek beneath. A place to gather or relax. Alternatively, recirculated potable water can be used. Although, there would be costs in water usage.




Benches, street-lamps, or other site features could be colored a shade of blue or depict the words “Emigration Creek” to create an aesthetic that plays on the context of the site. Tenants would be able to follow the pathway of the creek through the visual cues.


Interpretive signage


Various forms of signage, from the temporary – flags or plastic lawn signs – to the more permanent, could be used to educate residents about the presence of Emigration Creek underneath where they live. Signage can be used in conjunction with all of these ideas to frame the context of the efforts.

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Grant Opportunity

Grant Opportunity - Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands Bank Stabilization Grant

The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands is offering a $50,000 bank stabilization grant that requires a 1:1 match. The Division is interested in funding bank restoration projects that improve fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic beauty, public recreation, water quality, and protection of infrastructure. Projects will be ranked based upon the following categories: 

  • Demonstrated need for the project.
  • Use of appropriate methodology for project location.
  • Secured matching funds.
  • Applicant demonstrates the ability to carry out the project, and expend all grant funds by June 2018.
  • Committed project partners.


Submit the application and questions to:

Ben Stireman, Sovereign Lands Analyst

Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands

1594 West North Temple

P.O. Box 145703

Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-5703



A Creek Walk

A Creek Walk with the Seven Canyons Trust: Photographic Essay

By Shaela Adams, Mila Jaskowski, Meagan Nielsen, and Nick Sorge

Underneath the streets of Salt Lake City run the rivers of the Wasatch Mountains: Red Butte, City Creek, Parleys Creek, Emigration, Mill Creek, Little Cottonwood Creek and Big Cottonwood Creek. During the turn of the 20th century, the creeks were culverted within the city, existing underneath us ever since.

Dedicated to daylighting the creeks of the Wasatch Front, the Seven Canyons Trust has developed a 100-year plan to bring all of these creeks back to the surface, reestablishing their natural ecosystems. The organization focuses on the ecological benefits, as well as the community benefits.

The Three Creeks Confluence, where the culverted Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s resurface into the Jordan River, is a central location in which daylight efforts are currently being focused. Efforts seek to engage the surrounding community, providing a location for socializing, recreation, and rehabilitation of natural ecosystems.

In quest to raise awareness and educate the Salt Lake Community, the Trust takes groups of community members on creek walks, through the Seven Creeks | Walk Series. Community members have the opportunity to learn about the effects of culverted creeks and the benefits of daylighting, as well as gain a better understanding of the significance of daylighting and the 100-year vision.

Local students had the opportunity to partake in the creek walk at the Three Creeks Confluence. The walk began on the sidewalk, in which the three creeks run beneath. Discussion, led by the students, took place about the concept of daylighting.

In the discussion, the students were taught about the various species that depend on the riparian ecosystems, such as neo-tropical migratory birds. They saw the important of the Jordan River for humans and nonhuman alike. The students watched a pair of Mallard ducks, resting on the culvert containing the three creeks, and inventoried the vegetation on-site.

The students learned about invasive species. They counted the rings of a tree cookie from a Russian olive, an invasive species prevalent along Utah’s waterways. Afterwards, the rings of a native Fremont cottonwood were counted. The students noticed these rings were much less spaced apart, evidence of a slower growing species when compared to Russian olive.

The students then had the chance to actually remove invasive species at the site. Invasive Scotch thistle was the target. Teamwork was required. Indirectly, they learned it is easier to perform a task when working together. By engaging in hands-on activities, the students formed a deeper emotional connection to the health of the valley’s hydrology.

It doesn’t matter your size or age when keeping natural environments clean and healthy, a concept the creek walk actualized. The removal of invasive species allows natives to thrive, adding to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Along with the removal of invasives, the students learned about the importance of keeping waterways free of trash that degrade the ecosystem. Plastics can take thousands of years to biodegrade, remaining in the ecosystem if not removed.

The students returned to the sidewalk, illustrating the creeks flowing beneath. Here, they creatively expressed their feelings of excitement about the daylighting project via chalk. Showing off their artistic side, fish, ducks, and calls to action were drawn.

The students look forward to the possibility of a waterway returning in their neighborhood. They wish to be more involved in taking care of the environment, as well as raising awareness for the Three Creeks Confluence. The children are performing an interpretive dance symbolizing the return of the creeks to gain support from their family and friends.

A Creek Walk with the Seven Canyons Trust exemplifies the key aspects of community engagement within environmental justice. By engaging students face-to-face, injustices can be addressed, not only to the valley’s waterways, but also to the community members. After observing the consequences of culverting creeks, participants developed a strong connection to the cause. The students quite literally skipped away with Seven Canyons Trust stickers, excited to perform a dance inspired by water. Connection inspires activism and action, even from the youngest of our community.

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Register your Rewards Card through Smith's Inspiring Donations program, and they will donate to the Seven Canyons Trust every time you purchase your weekly milk and eggs! You are still eligible to get points towards gas purchase discounts and will continue to get coupons. So what are you waiting for? No risk, high reward!

Pick up a Smith's Rewards Card through any Smith's Customer Service desk, and start saving! 

Create an account on SmithsFoodandDrug.com (instructions). Once you have created an account, link your Rewards Card. Scroll to the Inspiring Donations tab and search for the Seven Canyons Trust. Click the Enroll button. If you have already enrolled, you may have to re-enroll in the program. For further questions, call Customer Service at 1-800-576-4377.

Thank you for signing up and your contributions to daylight and rehabilitate the seven canyon creeks of the Salt Lake valley!

Where the Waters Meet

Where the Waters Meet

By Wendy Wischer | WendyWischer.com

Created in collaboration with artist John Mack, Where the Waters Meet consists of three low-bridges that come together at a small platform approximately three feet above the ground. This temporary installation represents the three creeks, Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks, that flow underneath the site at 1300 South 800 West in the Salt Lake City neighborhood of Glendale.

The Three Creeks Wayfinding Installation design by Wendy Wischer and John Mack.

The Three Creeks Wayfinding Installation design by Wendy Wischer and John Mack.

The three, blue-painted pathways that merge together create a visual representation of the nearby Three Creeks Confluence. In addition, the piece represents the convergence of different cultures in the Glendale neighborhood. The platform, formed by the converging pathways, will function as an open community stage. From June to October, the temporary installation will become a gathering space and reminder of the three underground waterways that flow beneath the neighborhood.

The Seven Canyons Trust is hosting a community celebration on June 24th from 10AM to 1PM to commemorate the $1.2 million secured to fund the Three Creeks Confluence. The platform will transform into an “open mic” to invite residents to share poetry, music, story-telling and loveDANCEmore will host an improvisational dance jam. The event will be free and open to all.


About the Artists

As an Assistant Professor in Sculpture Intermedia at the University of Utah I have been very interested in collaborations dealing with the significance of water in the west and especially the watersheds of the Wasatch Mountains. Recently, I completed a permanent public art piece installed under the I-15 expressway at 1300 South, just blocks away from the Three Creeks Confluence. Flowing Currents is a visual abstraction that represents the waters that flow underneath the area, while also referencing the flow of traffic, wind and migration.

A placemaking sculpture to activate neglected space under the 1300 South underpass.

A placemaking sculpture to activate neglected space under the 1300 South underpass.

Last year, I installed a temporary piece at Cottonwood Pond in West Valley City. Braided Nexus was designed to assist with ecological restoration efforts and created temporary seats for residents, encouraging a community gathering place. Currently, I am working on a more permanent installation for the pond that will include boulders as seating and willow sculptures that will be planted in the water and eventually create habitat.

A temporary installation to provide native willow habitat, erosion control, and seating.

A temporary installation to provide native willow habitat, erosion control, and seating.

John uses traditional materials, such as wood and metal, often creating large abstract forms based on Science Fiction for his sculptural work. His use of traditional materials, as well as his experience with carpentry, are ideal for his current position as the Technical Director of the Pioneer Theatre where he builds a wide variety of functional stage sets.

Interactive stage built by John Mack for the Pioneer Theatre.

Interactive stage built by John Mack for the Pioneer Theatre.

Both John and I have a special interest in the natural environment and seek ways to use our creativity to perpetuate sustainable practices for future generations. This is an exciting project both for its importance at the Three Creek Confluence, as well as the potential for building bridges within a community – physically and metaphorically.




Artists wanted!








The Seven Canyons Trust, in partnership with Dominion Questar, the Jordan River Commission, Salt Lake City Arts Council, the Center for the Living City, ArtsBridge America, and the Glendale Community Council, is seeking an artist to assist with the design and implementation of a temporary installation at 1300 South 800 West in the Salt Lake City neighborhood of Glendale. The dual goals of the placemaking installation are to: (1) represent the three creeks – Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks – that flow underneath the site; and (2) to provide wayfinding to the Three Creeks Confluence, a block to the west of the site. This open space area, where 1300 South and California Avenue diverge, is the visual gateway to Glendale neighborhood.


The Seven Canyons Trust works to daylight and rehabilitate the seven canyon creeks of Utah’s Wasatch Range, restoring beauty and health to the hydrology of the Salt Lake valley. Daylighting is a term to describe the uncovering of buried urban waters, bringing them up to the surface and restoring their stream channels. According to research by the Trust, over 21 miles of Salt Lake County’s seven main tributaries to the Jordan River are buried in underground culverts. By engaging locals to amplify their voices, the Trust promotes community stewardship that leads to action and attachment toward their hydrologic systems.

At its inception in 2014, the Seven Canyons Trust began its work with the Three Creeks Confluence, the first phase of its 100 Years of Daylighting visioning document. This project involves the restoration of the combined convergence of three underground creeks – Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks – and the Jordan River. Its main goals include, expanding green infrastructure solutions to water quality impairments; enhancing the ecological value of the site and reactivate the neglected area; diversifying active transportation opportunities; and creating a gateway to the Jordan River for nearby community anchor institutions, schools, and the surrounding neighborhood.


Applicants will submit completed proposals with all attachments outlined in Section H. A selection committee, consisting of representatives from each project partner listen in Section A, will choose up to three proposals to continue on to the next round. Artists will be notified at this point about their status. The selected artists will then create a 5-minute presentation to share their design during a Glendale Community Council meeting. Attendees of the meeting will be given an opportunity to vote on their preferred design. The artist and installation with the most votes will be chosen for implementation. This will be an opportunity for artists to network with the community.


The applicant will be required to submit a two-page narrative to apply for funding. This narrative shall start with a summary of the project, including a title, the applicant’s information (name, email, phone, and address), a brief description of the artist and/or organization, and a project abstract. The applicant shall also answer the following questions:

  1. Design – How does the work, or series of works, accomplish the dual goals established in Section A, create a gateway to the Glendale neighborhood, and consider the community it represents? Are there any interactive elements? *Please note, the design must not alter the physical layout of the site, such as the use of concrete footings and/or excavation.
  2. Materials – Are the materials used appropriate for the public setting and the outdoors? Are any of the materials repurposed or recycled?
  3. Community Engagement – How does the applicant propose to involve members of the community in the design and/or implementation of the project. Does the installation fit within a community celebration hosted by the project partners, in conjunction with its construction?
  4. Maintenance – How does the applicant propose to adequately maintain the integrity of the installation? Is this plan reasonable over a five-month period? *Please note, the installation is temporary in nature. For purposes of this project, temporary should be defined as requiring less than one week to disassemble.
  5. Experience – Does the applicant have experience in implementing similar projects? Explain any past finished works that have particular relevance to this project.


The selected artist will be awarded a $2,000 honorarium. This honorarium will fund expenses related to the labor and supplies needed to create the installation. The budget submitted by the artist will be used to guide funding disbursement. Disbursement will come in two installments, at the beginning and at implementation. Furthermore, the artist is encouraged to solicit further matching funding or in-kind supplies to supplement the project budget.


The following dates will guide the project:

  1. Proposal Due: April 10, 2017 at 11:59PM
  2. Finalists Announced: May 1, 2017
  3. Presentations: May 16, 2017
  4. Selected Artist Announced: May 22, 2017
  5. Implementation/Celebration: June 24, 2017
  6. Maintenance: June to October 2017
  7. Disassemble: October 27, 2017

*Please note, the following dates are subject to change beyond the proposal due date.

G.   MAP


Proposals shall be submitted to brian@sevencanyonstrust.org in a packaged PDF format by April 10, 2017 at 11:59PM. Submissions shall be no more than five pages in length and shall include:

  1. Narrative – A two-page project narrative to explain in detail the design proposed by the artist. This shall include a brief summary of the project and the questions outlined in Section D.
  2. Budget – A detailed project budget that delineates the cost associated with supplies and that of labor. Please provide enough information to determine the reasonableness of each budget item. If you plan to seek additional matching funds, whether in-kind or monetary, please provide the organization, business, or other partner providing the funds and whether it is secured, pending, or planned.
  3. Design Sketch/Rendering(s) – A rendering or sketch of the proposed installation, including any interactive elements. It is encouraged to provide both a perspective and site plan view.
  4. Examples of Past Work – A selection of up to ten images of past finished works, including pictures, renderings, and/or descriptions of the pieces.


For any inquiries, please contact Brian Tonetti at brian@sevencanyonstrust.org or 585-703-8582.

Friend of the Relay

Want to support the continued hosting of the Range 2 River Relay for years to come? Purchase a Friend Sponsorship, and lock down your team’s registration for 2017!

With the purchase of a Friend Sponsorship, you will receive a free team registration, three free event tees, your name recognized under the Friend category on our website, and more! One hundred percent of the proceeds will be invested back into the Relay, so you can compete year after year.

Range 2 River Relay - Friend Sponsorship

- $250.00 -


About the event

An active transportation team relay to explore the conditions of the Salt Lake valley’s waterways, from pristine headwaters to buried creeks and channelized canal to meandering river.

Teams will consist of a biker, boater, and runner. Participants will race from the Wasatch Mountains to the Jordan River – range to river. The first teammate will follow City Creek via bikes donated by GREENbike, continuing as the creek gets buried underground. This leg will end at the creek’s confluence with the Jordan River, the historic Utah State Fairpark property. The second teammate will boat the Jordan River northward with canoes donated by Splore. Participants will follow the river as it transforms from a channelized canal to a meandering, healthy river. The Jordan River Trail will be utilized for the final stretch of the race. The final teammate will run past native riparian vegetation, as well as invasive invaders. Click here to view the course.

Come learn about local causes and enjoy eats and drinks at the Finish Line Celebration. Spectators can watch as participants finish the bike leg, start the boat leg, or come into the finish line on the running leg. Competitors can cheer on their teammates as they finish the race. Make sure to stay for the crowning of this years’ Range 2 River Relay champions!




Planning Partners

Herman Franks Park concepts

The Herman Franks Park concepts are here!

The Herman Franks Park design concepts are here! Submit your feedback to help guide this restorative addition to the park.

The Seven Canyons Trust, with support from Bockholt Landscape Architecture and the Franks Family Foundation, is crafting a community-based design vision to uncover Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park. Opportunity exists to daylight 1,000 feet of the creek at the perimeter of the park to activate the space between the baseball diamonds and the surrounding roads. The restored creek channel will create a beautiful backdrop for the current uses at the park, without disrupting them in any way.


Big Idea 1 - Daylighting Start

There is currently a stormwater pipe that directs surface water underground and carries it beneath the park, without anyone being the wiser. This is a lost opportunity to capitalize on one of the most attractive commodities that draws people to public spaces - water. Getting water out of the stormwater system and onto the surface through Herman Franks Park will add appeal to the park by allowing for new programmed uses along the stream, recreating the natural ecosystem and riparian habitat, and beautifying the streetscape.

Big Idea 2 - Playground

Daylighting the stormwater will require some excavation and grading near the existing playground which will require it to be reworked. Creating a playground that works in conjunction with the daylighting of the stream will create educational opportunities and a park unique to the surrounding community.

Big Idea 3 - Stream

Bodies of water attract people. Creating a natural stream running through Herman Franks Park will get people's attention. It will be inviting and safe to approach and explore in certain locations. Adding the stream will also increase biodiversity by attracting various forms of wildlife to the newly restored habitat.

Big Idea 4 - Landform

Currently, the landscape within the project focus area is virtually flat. This is functional for the current use, but with the addition of a natural stream flowing with gravity, new landforms need to be included on the site. The landforms can add additional built-in amenities and redesign existing amenities such as bleachers to fit into the grade.

Big Idea 5 - Stream Terminus

Since the stormwater pipe is being daylit in the park it will need to re-enter the stormwater system somehow. The natural grade of the site makes this terminus of the stream most feasible on the northwest corner of the park.


Concept One

Big Idea 1 - Daylighting Start

The stormwater is pumped up and out of a pipe into a filtration system before being released into a natural stream system.


Big Idea 2 - Playground

This concept envisions rebuilding the playground with interpretive play structures inspired by pipes and waterworks. These features could include exposing the storm-pipe, installing large pipe for kids to explore, water feature for kids to interact with the water, and much more. This concept would require digging down and incorporating ramps and steps in the play area.

This sketch shows how some of the features may look and how the stormpipe interacts with the play area. A fun idea is to modify a section of the stormpipe before it is daylit to allow people to look inside to see the water traveling through. The current entry to the dog park will be re-located to eliminate conflicting uses and new landform.


Big Idea 3 - Stream

In this concept, the stream naturally flows from the playground area to the northwest corner of the site. Bridges over the stream maintain existing pedestrian routes and also provide an opportunity to interact with and get close to the water. Viewing platforms offer people the opportunity to stop and observe the stream and riparian area. These platforms could have interpretive signage, benches, and lighting to make them comfortable and inviting.


This sketch shows the profile of the stream and riparian corridor along with a viewing platform fitted with a safety rail and signage. Also shown in the sketch, to the right, is a park entry with 60 degree parking on the street and entry signage.


Big Idea 4 - Landform

In order to accommodate the natural flow, this concept uses retaining walls to cut into the existing grade and allow for a stream bed. The landform is created by removing existing earth to allow room for the stream bed. This concept includes an amphitheater. This amphitheater works great with this concept because it steps down gradually to the stream bed below. It could be used for viewing fireworks and other events. It can also be used as a plaza/picnic area, when events aren’t occurring.

Big Idea 5 - Stream Terminus

The stream re-enters the stormwater pipe on the northwest corner. It widens to a pool before re-entering the pipe to settle and filter out pollutants, debris, and sediments.



Concept Two


Big Idea 1 - Daylighting Start

Stormwater is daylit through a water feature on the southeast corner of the site and travels through architectural channels and ponds before taking on a more natural form.

Big Idea 2 - Playground

An alternative to the pipeworks playground would be a play area that is geared more towards education and interpretation of why daylighting the stream is beneficial. This concept takes a more linear form alongside the stream with a weir system in the stream to help filter the water and control fluctuating levels. This creates interest and pools next to the play area.


This sketch shows how the educational playground and stream interact and provide interpretive opportunities, such as signage and observation points.


Big Idea 3 - Stream

In this concept, the stream flows from an architectural water feature in the southeast corner, and naturally winds around toward the northwest corner. This concept connects the stream with the pond in Liberty Park, across the intersection. The bridges are more linear and frequent, extending the experience of crossing the stream. There are two main viewing platforms. The first platform includes a stepped and ramped approach down to the water just north of the large baseball diamond. The second platform stands in the center of the green overpass as a plaza and gathering space.


Big Idea 4 - Landform

The stream in this concept is more at grade with berming built up to define the stream bed. Retaining walls are used to raise the plaza near the concessions building, retain built in bleachers, and along 1300 South and 700 East to ramp down. The northeast corner gets three main upgrades along the stream. These include a raised corner plaza, built-in bleachers and seating, and a waterfall. These landforms work together to channel the water around the corner and beneath the plaza.

As illustrated in the sketch the bleachers would be set in the grade with a large retaining wall separating the falls/stream from the baseball field. This proposal also requires the concessions to be redesigned.


Big Idea 5 - Stream Terminus

This concept proposes that both 700 East and 1300 South are ramped down to pass under a green overpass at-grade or ground-level. This overpass allows the stream and park to connect to the hydrology and green space of Liberty Park. 

This sketch illustrates what a green connection between Liberty Park and Herman Franks Park might look like. It strengthens the walkability of the city, giving precedence to our hydrology and pedestrians traveling to Liberty Park, and beyond.


Project Comment Form

Please provide your feedback on the above design concepts and project components. With your feedback, we can collect the best information to create a responsive design and plan for this exciting, restorative addition to Herman Franks Park. Feedback on these design concepts will help create a community-based preferred design to be presented for implementation by the Seven Canyons Trust. Would you consider pledging your support to this project? We must act now to begin the healing and repair of our hydrology.

Name *
Address *
Please focus only on Concept One for the first three questions.
Now, please only focus on Concept Two for the next three questions.
You may focus on either design or additional elements of the project scope or park we should consider.

Will you join us?

On December 13 at 5:30-8PM in the Tracy Aviary’s Education Room, the Seven Canyons Trust will be hosting the second community design charrette of the Herman Franks Park Emigration Creek Daylighting Project.

The Seven Canyons Trust, with support from Bockholt Landscape Architecture and the Franks Family Foundation, is crafting a community-based design vision to uncover Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park. This project seeks to activate the space between the baseball diamonds and the surrounding roads. The restored creek channel will create a beautiful backdrop for the current uses at the park, without disrupting them in any way. By harnessing the history of place - where the creek once flowed freely through this neighborhood - we can pay homage to the hydrology that sustained the settlement of our valley.

At Community Design Charrette - Two, the Seven Canyons Trust and Bockholt Landscape Architecture will be unveiling two design concepts for the project. This will be the final community workshop to gather residents' thoughts, ideas, and visions. With this information, we will create a responsive, community-based preferred design and master plan for this exciting, restorative addition to the park.

Food and refreshments will be available!


#GivingTuesday on November 29th - Pledge your support!

Celebrate with Seven Canyons Trust on Tuesday, November 29. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. The time is now to begin healing and repairing our hydrology! Pledge your support to daylight the 21 miles of buried creeks in the Salt Lake valley. Close the year by contributing to our 100-year vision!

Here are three ways to get involved:


Chip in your support to the Seven Canyons Trust's 100-year vision and its projects, such as the Three Creeks Confluence, Herman Franks Park, or the Seven Creeks | Walk Series. Each donor will receive a coupon to Vive Juicery and Dose SLC Coffee and Food Truck, along with three entries in our opportunity drawing.


Support the local businesses that rely on our seven creeks. On November 29, Dose SLC will donate 10% of their overall proceeds and Vive Juicery will donate a portion of the proceeds of their Hydrator drink. Without the clean mountain runoff from the Wasatch Mountains into our seven canyon creeks, we wouldn't be able to enjoy a cold-pressed juice or early-morning cup of joe. Stop by, order a drink, and get to know the people that run these fantastic businesses.


Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and share our posts about #GivingTuesday. If you start following one of our pages and share a #GivingTuesday post, you will receive one entry in our opportunity drawing. One share on social media can mean up to $25 extra to a campaign.

Opportunity drawing items include: 

  • Dose SLC Bundle: coffee thermos, socks, buy-one-get-one-free coupon, and stickers ($40 value)
  • Vive Juicery Bundle: Three juice sampling and coupon
  • REI Stowaway camping chair ($45 value)
  • REI National Parks Service mug ($15 value)
  • REI National Parks Service water bottle ($40 value)
  • REI Flash day pack ($40 value)

1,000 foot daylighting

The Seven Canyons Trust seeks to daylight an underground Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park.

The Seven Canyons Trust, with support from Bockholt Landscape Architecture and the Franks Family Foundation, is crafting a community-based design vision to uncover Emigration Creek at Herman Franks Park, a small neighborhood park in the East Liberty neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Named after the baseball legend and native-Utahn, Herman Franks, its main attractor includes three baseball diamonds and a dog park, affixed between the fields.

As Emigration Creek runs west through the valley, its waters slip underground outside of Westminster College’s campus, until spilling into the Liberty Park pond. There is opportunity to daylight over 1,000 feet of Emigration Creek at the perimeter of Herman Franks Park to activate the space between the baseball diamonds and the surrounding roads. The restored creek channel will create a beautiful backdrop for the current uses at the park, without disrupting them in any way.

Daylighting Emigration Creek will create a nexus for water quality impairments to be retain and cleaned, improving water quality for downstream users and underserved communities on the west-side. New riparian vegetation will create vital habitat for migratory birds coming to the valley from South America or Canada, and the 80 percent of Utah’s species that rely on riparian areas for a portion of their lifecycle. The channel will be able to naturally fluctuate with high flows, mitigating flooding potential in the area and removing choke points in the stormwater system that can cause disastrous clogging. This project will become an opportunity for children to access natural play areas, benefitting their physical and mental well-being as detailed in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. A gathering space will be created for the families to picnic and relax near water. Surrounding property values of the area will likely increase with the implementation of the project. A study, done by the University of North Carolina, found that property values adjacent to restoration sites, increased by an average of $3,100. An aesthetically-pleasing creek can facilitate surrounding private development, as people are drawn towards the area and the pedestrian environment is improved. This creek will become the start to a regional east-west trail along Emigration Creek, detailing the original route pioneers may have traveled as they entered the valley. The creek will provide a living laboratory for nearby Westminster College, and Hawthorne and Emerson Elementary Schools. Students can research STEM-based topics, including water quality testing, biological surveys, and much more.

Donor Highlight

Donor Highlight: Janet Muir & David Suehsdorf

By Janet Muir

I grew up in Salt Lake, near Mill Creek, and spent some teenage summer days with friends scooting on our seats in cut-offs through the Parley’s Creek culvert near Suicide Rock (even one transit could be hard on the cut-offs - an almost total wardrobe failure, as I recall).

Commonly known as "Shoot the Tube," a culvert under I-80 acts as a impromptu waterslide. | Photo: shiddylife.com

Commonly known as "Shoot the Tube," a culvert under I-80 acts as a impromptu waterslide. | Photo: shiddylife.com

I always wondered where those streams went and how they got to the Jordan River.

Many years later, our son attended a summer program at RISD, and we had the opportunity to witness the full-blown Providence Renaissance, sparked by the daylighting of the Providence River, the creation of Waterplace Park, and the addition of the famously popular WaterFire celebrations. A quite dreary place had become magical.

WaterFire has captured the imagination of over ten million visitors, bringing life to downtown, and revitalizing Rhode Island’s capital city. | Photo: firewater.org

WaterFire has captured the imagination of over ten million visitors, bringing life to downtown, and revitalizing Rhode Island’s capital city. | Photo: firewater.org

Still later, back in Utah, I got involved in the effort to reclaim our dark skies and starry nights.

We donated to the Seven Canyons Trust because Utah’s streams and dark skies are natural resources that have been treated quite badly, and there are now models for reversing the damage. Restoring the basic relationship between snowpack and streambed, and between nighttime and dark somehow seem connected.

Salt Lake City at night. The light pollution, seen in the photo, blocks nighttime star-gazing. | Photo: NASA

Salt Lake City at night. The light pollution, seen in the photo, blocks nighttime star-gazing. | Photo: NASA

In 2012, the Maori people won, for the third largest river in New Zealand, status as a legal entity with rights and representation. Four years earlier, Ecuador’s new constitution granted legal rights to rivers (and forests).

Here in Utah, daylighting our seven canyon streams and preserving our heritage of some of the best dark skies in the world seem relatively modest ways to honor the spectacular natural advantages of the state and the Salt Lake Valley and leave a better place for those who come after us. 

Video: Jeffrey Scott

$2,500 from Jordan River Commission

Photo: Neil Franti

Photo: Neil Franti

$2,500 from Jordan River Commission to fund Seven Creeks | Walk Series!

We are extremely excited to announce the acquisition of $2,500 in grant funding from the Jordan River Commission's Jordan River Assistance Fund! This grant will help fund our Seven Creeks | Walk Series. With grant funds, the Center for the Living City, ArtsBridge America, and the Seven Canyons Trust will implement three urban interventions -- short-term low-cost installations to catalyze long-term change -- to raise awareness and facilitate community input for our Three Creeks Confluence project.

The objectives of this program and interventions include:

  • Engage 200 participants, including urban youth and underserved communities;
  • Develop three on-the-ground, visible projects (urban interventions) that work to beautify and restore pinpoint sites in the neighborhood;
  • Engage and educate the community in the visioning process of Three Creeks Confluence at the Jordan River, through an open and collaborative process;
  • Raise awareness for the daylighting project within the Three Creeks Confluence area and beyond; and
  • Clean-up garbage and remove invasive species in this area.



Students, from west-side schools, will paint a creek overtop the culvert at the project and illustrate ideas and visions within the channel, providing a canvas for creative expression.

Completed creek chalk channel intervention with Entheos Academy 3rd Grade Students overtop the culvert at the Three Creeks Confluence site.

Completed creek chalk channel intervention with Entheos Academy 3rd Grade Students overtop the culvert at the Three Creeks Confluence site.



A chalkboard visioning installation -- with prompts, such as “I envision my neighborhood as” -- will allow residents to provide project visions on-site.

Chalkboard visioning intervention example from artist, Candy Chang.

Chalkboard visioning intervention example from artist, Candy Chang.



A commissioned sculpture will represent the three creeks, creating a visual marker to improve access and guide passersby to the project.

The proposed open space site for the temporary wayfinding sculpture installation. This property is location at the divergence of California Avenue and 1300 South.

The proposed open space site for the temporary wayfinding sculpture installation. This property is location at the divergence of California Avenue and 1300 South.


Flip it on its Head

Flip it on its Head

By Alex VeIlleux, alexveilleux.com

As a guy raised with a love for the outdoors, daylighting and restoring the natural drainages of the Salt Lake valley is something I can easily get behind. Fond memories of running barefoot along the stream banks accessed from my backyard highlight the nostalgia reel of my childhood. I was lucky enough to win the genetic lottery and be born into a community that provided the opportunity to steep my elementary sponge brain in the natural world. Trailblazing straight out of my backdoor without a doubt molded me into the human being I am today. 

I’m sure this narrative resonates with a lot of folks, but unfortunately it doesn’t with many kids, even in a place like Salt Lake with its ease of access to the Wasatch Range. Children growing up in communities on the west-side come of age under much different conditions than I did. Impoverished neighborhoods have little to offer beyond pavement and grassy medians for areas of play.

Trapped in the throes of financial hardship, it’s hard for a family to provide exposure to the natural world for their children. A single mother struggling to provide for her kids is not economically suited to give her children these opportunities, and also simply does not have the time to travel a half hour into the hills on a regular basis. Parents working multiple jobs to try and put food on the table are exhausted from the excruciating work load inherent in such a lifestyle, and hardly have the energy to plan out a jaunt to the hills. Many don’t own reliable forms of transportation, rendering any kind of escape from the concrete close to impossible. Daylighting can give these families direct access to natural spaces in close proximity to their homes.

The psychological benefits that come with time spent in nature are becoming clearer by the day. A multitude of books, articles, and research have been dedicated to the notion. Wilderness therapy is a new technique quickly gaining popularity. It offers outdoor escapes as a solution to America’s overworked and underpaid rat-race culture, as well as rehabilitation programs for troubled adolescents’ focusing on isolation in natural spaces as the central tenant of healing.

Many nonprofits have developed programs to bring underprivileged youth on hikes or other forms of outdoor recreation for the same purposes I’m addressing here. The beauty of daylighting is that it flips this logic on its head. Instead of transporting people from the city into natural spaces, we can bring natural spaces to the people in the city.

Brian Tonetti, Executive Director, explaining the city’s hydrology to urban youth at Three Creeks Confluence | Photo: Grant Allen

Brian Tonetti, Executive Director, explaining the city’s hydrology to urban youth at Three Creeks Confluence | Photo: Grant Allen

With this role reversal, you not only accomplish the same form of wilderness therapy, but you do it with all the other benefits of daylighting. Restoration of natural ecological services, flood control, added property value, and our priorities as a city all come as added bonuses to the same end as traditional wilderness therapy. Providing a natural space within concrete sprawl effectively cuts out the middle man and allows for an entirely new environmental consciousness to emerge in these communities.

A crux of combatting the apathy inherent in environmentalism is providing the experience of nature so the public can care about these problems. Environmentalism is somewhat plagued as a white middle-class phenomena. They are the demographic who tend to be capable of enjoying it, which fuels their desire to protect it. If we can provide a regular outlet for communities who would usually never have it, support for environmental policy reform could take off. Giving our most population dense areas a reason to care about the environment just makes sense statistically.

Famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, host of Fox Network’s Cosmos, grew up in the Bronx, and couldn’t see the stars at night from where he lived. If it were not for a planetarium in his neighborhood, Tyson very well may not have discovered his passion for the universe. Without that planetarium, the field of astrophysics and public knowledge of outer space would certainly not be the same as it is today. Daylighting has the potential to act in the same way Tyson’s planetarium did, and empower members of impoverished areas with the development of a passion for an outdoor space evolving into upward mobility via the natural sciences.

Every year for Father’s Day, I write out a nice heartfelt note in a card for my dad. This year, I specifically thanked him for gifting me with my love for the outdoors as it has truly made me who I am today. I hope one day there’s a kid who finds their passion from a daylit creek in their neighborhood. I hope some day, a kid from the west side can write something along the same lines to their dad because of a section of waterway that would’ve otherwise remained underground.

Rediscovering Emigration Creek

Rediscovering Emigration Creek: Lost Urban Waters Brought Back to Life

By Brian Tonetti, Executive Director

As a skier, water is the most essential ingredient. Skiing is a water sport. Without the precious "Greatest Snow on Earth," I would not be able to participate in my life's passions and our outdoor industry, amounting to millions of dollars of state revenue, would suffer. As a New York-transplant, I followed in the footsteps of many before, chasing the snow west. Upon arriving, I found endless powder fields, glorious peaks, and sublime canyons. I wanted more.

The urge, this time, took on a different form, knowledge. As I looked down, at my feet, at the mountains beyond, and those drainages further, I wanted to investigate exactly what happened to the water as it melted. Upon further investigation I followed many of these creeks, quite literally, underground. The others, I followed all the way to the Jordan River, a green vein splitting the grey of the Salt Lake Valley in half. In my search to learn more, I ended up at the Jordan River Commission, a local organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the Jordan River corridor and all its amenities, including wildlife, recreation, water quality, and many others. This led to a job and love of urban waters. Through schooling, I was introduced to the idea of daylighting and the seven main tributaries of the Jordan River. Culminating in the founding of an organization dedicated to daylighting and rehabilitating these urban waters, the Seven Canyons Trust.

Wolverine Cirque, a popular backcountry skiing destination in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Wolverine Cirque, a popular backcountry skiing destination in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Daylighting is the uncovering of buried, underground creeks, streams, and rivers, bring them to the surface and restoring these waters to the most natural state possible. From Berkeley, California to Zurich, Switzerland, communities are uncovering their hidden waters, making the invisible visible. Turning grey to green, daylighting can take neglected and degraded urban properties and turn them into an ecological paradise, improving water quality and providing habitat for wildlife, as well as promoting economic development and living laborites for nature-starved urban families and children.

When Brigham Young and Company, first set eyes on the Salt Lake Valley, in the mouth of Emigration Canyon, and uttered the words, "This is the right place." He saw seven green veins extending through the valley, colliding with the slice of green that connected the fresh water lake to the great saltwater lake. Once pioneers, they became settlers, tapping and taming the creeks to facilitate settlement in an upland-desert ecosystem. Before any certifications and permits were required, or even necessary, this irrigation work revolutionized practices throughout the country.

If Brigham Young looked over the valley today, he would hardly recognize what he saw. Yes, the skyscrapers, planes, cars, or cranes would all surprise him, if he could even see through the smog on a brisk winter's day. However, beyond all this, he would fail to see the core of the landscape, the waters that ran through it, the sustainers of life. He would fail to see those seven green ribbons streaming down the valley.

According to my calculations, over 21 miles of creek lay buried throughout the Salt Lake Valley. About five of these creek miles can be attributed to Emigration Creek. Bursting from Emigration Canyon, the creek flows into Hogle Zoo where it spills into an underground culvert just before the Giraffes. To the nearby White Rhino’s dismay, the creeks pops back to the surface and flows on into the Bonneville Golf Course. Collecting golf balls and golfer’s frustration, the creek winds through the course creating an interesting water feature and critical riparian habitat. From there it winds through neighborhoods into Wasatch Hollow, a restoration site of Salt Lake City Parks & Public Lands. The Blaine Natural Area is next to receive the waters of Emigration Creek, a small natural oasis jammed between homes and Blaine Avenue. Flowing on, the creek runs to Westminster. Through campus, the creek provides students with a living laboratory, a mediation oasis, or a site of procrastination and relaxation. Just outside of campus, the creek again follows into an underground culvert to take over a mile trek to Liberty Park, mixing with the waters of Red Butte Creek to form Liberty Pond. A haven to migratory birds and waterfowl, as well as the picnicing family, Liberty Pond provides key wetland-like habitat, a rarity in the highly-management urban environment. From there both Red Butte Creek and Emigration Creek begin an over two mile trip down 1300 South underground, following commuters as they rush to work, home, or play. Mixing with an underground Parley’s Creek at State Street, these three creeks finally flow into the Jordan River at 900 West. The current site of an auto emissions shop to the south and a foreclosed home to the north.

The story is not done there. Three Creeks Park, the underground confluence of Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley’s Creeks, and the Jordan River, was first envisioned as the capstone project in 100 Years of Daylighting. In partnership with the Jordan River Commission, Salt Lake City, the Sorenson Unity Center, and many other stakeholders, the Seven Canyons Trust is working to daylight this historic confluence, marking the first time residents here would see water since the 1983 floods and, beyond that, at the turn of the 20th century when these creeks were buried.

Three Creeks Park, the underground confluence of Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley's Creeks, and the Jordan River.

Three Creeks Park, the underground confluence of Red Butte, Emigration, and Parley's Creeks, and the Jordan River.

This project would improve water quality by slowing down stormwater and allowing it to infiltrate into the ground. This project would begin to alleviate key environmental justice issues where lower-income west-side communities are forced to deal with pollutants and degraded water quality from higher-income east-side communities. This project would provide a key connection for nearby community anchor institution, Sorenson Unity and Multi-Cultural Center, to the 45-mile Jordan River Parkway and 200 miles of connected trailways from Roy to Provo, and beyond. This project would create a living laboratory for the Center and other educational institutions, creating the next scientist and stewards. Finally, this project would work to undue past mistakes and mark the first steps towards the healing and repairing of the hydrology of the Salt Lake Valley, a rediscovering of Emigration Creek and the rest of our lost urban waters.

Three Creeks Park dock rendering from 100 Years of Daylighting.

Three Creeks Park dock rendering from 100 Years of Daylighting.

At The Leonardo

Come See Us At The Leonardo!

A Seven Canyons Trust poster, along with a City Creek Google flyover, is currently being showcased at The Leonardo under the "Water" exhibit. Come check out our work and the work that is being done across the Salt Lake Valley in relation to our most important natural resource, water.

Here is an exert from The Leonardo about the exhibit, "Over 70% of the earth’s surface is made up of water. So, how can something this common be so complex? The Leonardo's latest original exhibit explores the many ways water connects us in science, culture, politics and life. Immerse yourself in water’s unique properties and contemplate your personal relationship with water through meditative spaces and hands-on activities. Understand the issues surrounding water and see how local researchers are helping to build a better future for us all."

Wonderful News

Wonderful News for Seven Canyons Trust!

The end of September marked the 2014 Utah APA / Western Planner Joint Planning Conference. A part of this conference is that they offer awards to professionals and students in the urban planning field. At the promptings of our workshop professor, not to mention having lost many hours of sleep over our document's production and being ecstatic to share it, we new this was an opportunity we just couldn't pass up.

After a few weeks of nail-biting and hand-wringing, the Seven Canyons Trust was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award for a student project! Words can not express how excited we are to have received this award. It is such an honor and we are so grateful to the Utah APA, the University of Utah City and Metropolitan Planning Department and Stephen Goldsmith for his vision and support. Thank you!

Is Dialysis Easier?

Is Dialysis Easier?

By Patrick Hart

That’s not a title, it’s a question. Is it better to change bad habits or let them continue? Go ahead, think about it, I’ll wait.

A doctor was talking to a patient with a history of poor diet and severe substance abuse. This combination has unfortunately resulted in near-total kidney failure, HOWEVER, the doctor enthusiastically and proudly states that it is completely reversible! The patient need only improve their diet and stop abusing their body, and everything should return to normal function. The patient sighs and looks at the doctor, “I guess dialysis is my only option then”.

Wait, what?

This is basically the situation we are currently facing in the Salt Lake Valley. Our rivers and creeks are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, but only if we stop poisoning them. But we instead choose to bury them, using vast quantities of energy to dig great trenches and create pipes to push the water out of sight.

I am sure most of you know about the ruptured Chevron pipeline in 2010 that spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into Red Butte Creek (if not then certainly read about it here), but how many actually saw, or felt, what happened beyond thinking "that's awful" whenever the story would appear on the news. It’s not entirely your fault. Oh, sure the signs were there: "don't look at the water", "don't touch it", and "lord help you if you drink it", but these were of course the wrong signs.

They should have read "come look at this water, our water, running black in the creek bed, come look at this and feel something". Chevron tidily cleaned up their mess though, and now the problem is solved and the world is right again. Well, unless you live downstream; who knows how many people, plants, and animals were affected by the 21,000 gallons of oil that was carried away by the current. Oh, and don’t dig too deeply along the creek bed lest you encounter the black sludge that seeped into the soil, still slowly percolating down into our aquifer.

It would seem that hiding the water does little to keep it cleaner, although it does wonders for PR when no one can actually see the toxic waste passing through the creek. And maybe this was a freak accident that we will never see happen again in the future of Utah, but it has happened, is happening, and will happen throughout the world for the foreseeable future so long as people cannot see the harm that is being done.

Would the reaction have been different if Red Butte Creek had been above ground? If people could have seen the oil painting the banks a murky black along its entire length? Imagine the outrage if thousands of residents had seen, smelled, and felt the damage done by a single company in less than a day. Maybe we would be more concerned about the auto guana we spray into our gutters if we knew it would end up in our backyards later that day. And maybe we would hold ourselves to higher standards if we knew that waters was ours. Not the city’s, not belonging to a company or a jurisdiction, but if we could walk up to the water, cup it in our hands, and know that this is ours, everyone’s, and we will protect it.

The Lake of the Hot Springs

The Lake of the Hot Springs

By Patrick Hart

“Northward, curls of vapor ascending from a gleaming sheet- The Lake of the Hot Springs- set in a bezel of emerald green, and bordered by another lake-bench upon which the glooms of evening were rapidly gathering, hung like a veil of gauze around the mountains.” - Richard F. Burton

A lake once existed just west of Capitol Hill, three miles long, the drainage from dozens of hot springs that dotted the landscape. It was one of the first things that British explorer Richard F. Burton saw when he entered the valley, and his description of it seems as surreal as the writings of Spanish explorers first seeing South America. But no matter how beautiful there are few things humans hate more than “swampland” and the lake was slowly filled and hidden. Then the hot springs were built over, their waters piped away, and now the only reminder of the lake is the rather inaccurately named “Warm Springs Park”.

The pendulum swung towards freeways and refineries and poorly built tract-housing, all of which gives us the convenience of driving to Yellowstone or Lava Hot Springs, Idaho when we want to experience hot springs. We now have the pleasure of leaving Salt Lake and catching a glimpse of Warm Springs Park, a reminder of what used to be. And now the pendulum is swinging back and people are lamenting the disuse of the hot springs and the now rundown Wasatch Plunge building, and we are here to give it that little extra push.

There was a time in Utah’s history when people thought the hot springs would be renowned, known as a place of relaxation and healing throughout the nation, when the idea that they could disappear was laughable. Where would they go? Who would do such a thing? I believe that it is time to see the waters return, to bring back a place of healing, recreation, and soothing. Let the water pilgrims come experience the wonders of our springs, and, on a more selfish note, let’s take our own short pilgrimage to the waters and take a soak.

Zion, Damascus, a world apart, and yet – did the Mormon pioneers find their love of water on the road to Zion? Did they, like Paul on the road to Damascus, see wonder and miracles on the road? Perhaps they saw more, perhaps their new holy land outstripped the majesty of Jerusalem, Damascus, and Mecca:

“These springs, together with the fresh-water lake and the Jordan, are held to be more purifying than Abana and Pharphar, rivers of Damascus…”.

It is strange to think that these springs, so revered and celebrated should so quickly succumb to the rush for progress. Where once the first people of North America thawed their frozen limbs there is only cold asphalt. Where the sky might once have been filled with the wings of a thousand snipes, churning the great plumes of steam, now there are only sickly gouts of smoke from refineries.