South S.L. residents upset at trail plans
By Rebecca Palmer | Deseret News
Dozens of residents don't want an urban trail in their backyards.
If built, the trail would follow Mill Creek and would ultimately connect the foothills to the Jordan River Trail system. But the city would have to take property through the use of eminent domain, according to many property owners along the corridor.
"Crime is our main concern," said resident Steve Norr, who keeps watch over the river from his home, at a public hearing last week. "I can't even imagine the thought of opening that gate up there for a fast getaway through my backyard."
There is already public access to the river near 3300 South and 500 East, but the land surrounding it is privately held. A short path there is framed by wild sunflowers and many species of grasses and shrubs. Signs of beaver are apparent in the bark-barren trees and ducks flap and call noisily, filling the air with the sound of wildlife.
Norr and his neighbors said crime is already a problem along the river corridor. In addition, the murky water brings dead animals and pollution through the heart of the city, they said.
Resident Michelle Johnson added that the city shouldn't alienate homeowners along the river corridor just as city officials are trying to get more people to buy homes in the area.
South Salt Lake is working with Salt Lake County on a feasibility study for the project and has already purchased and demolished a home along the planned trail at 3114 South and 500 East.
County open space money paid for the property but the city paid for the demolition and environmental studies.
Despite all that, City Council members told angry residents that the urban trail plan won't likely come to fruition anytime soon.
"This is not something that's really being planned," said the newest council member, Boyd Marshall. "I'm not akin to it."
Later, South Salt Lake Community Development Director Larry Gardner said plans for the trail have been kicked around for years by various city officials. If the purchased property is never used for the trail, it could be used to supplement nearby Fitts Park, he added.
Plans for the trail have made it into a revision of the city's general plan, but that document has yet to be approved by elected officials.
There will be ample opportunity for public comment on the river before anything is built, said Gardner.
Meanwhile, South Salt Lake Councilman Shane Siwik said it is clear that plans are moving forward, despite what his fellow elected officials say.
"There's obviously been a breakdown in communication between the citizens and the city," he said. "I'm sure all of those residents were blind-sided. We've already expended well over $100,000 so they have a right to be concerned."
In contrast, Gardner said that many participants in the city's general plan process favored access to streams.