A Utah State lawmaker from West Valley City wants to turn Jordan River into a state park. Representative Mike Winder says it would kick start major restoration efforts and thwart illegal activities along the corridor.
Winder says with a facelift and some security, Jordan River Parkway Trail would make a great state park.
“If we have some urban camp sites, if we have better trail connections, if we have boat launches, this could be the most used state park in the state,” Winder says.
He says the idea came to him when Salt Lake County announced that a new homeless shelter would be built a stone’s throw from Jordan River in South Salt Lake. Illegal camping, drug use and prostitution all plague the river’s lush banks.
“And I want to make sure that with the new homeless resource center that that population is not preyed upon,” Winder says. “That they’re problems are not exacerbated by any of the negative things going on along the river. But I also want to make sure that we protect and celebrate the river.”
I joined Laura Hanson at James Madison Park on 3300 south between the river and the site where the new shelter is planned. Hanson is executive director of Jordan River Commission. Walking along the river we see a few blankets and clothes left over by homeless people camping along the banks.
“We’ve dismantled virtually log cabins in some areas,” Hanson says. “I found this one place and they had like a dreamcatcher hanging from a porch. They had a tire swing. I mean, it was a homestead.”
Hanson likes the idea of a state park, but has a lot of questions.
“How is it going to be managed? How do we ensure that it’s a safe environment if we’re encouraging boy scouts to come down? How do we ensure that folks feel safe in those areas? But I’m certainly open to that idea and I think it could be a really nice addition to the river corridor,” Hanson says.
Before handing authority over to the state Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says he would want assurance that the state is investing in and maintaining the corridor as well as providing security.
Winder says he’ll open a bill file in the next few days.