The Jordan River has always been a place of refuge. It sustains life of myriad plants and animals as part of a rich ecological system. From the earliest native civilizations in this region, to trappers and explorers, to waves of pioneers and other immigrants, people naturally come to the Jordan River as a place to find sustenance, to rest and to renew. The Jordan River continues to be a place of refuge today for many who recreate along the river corridor.
The Operation Rio Grande effort in downtown Salt Lake City, aimed at rooting out drug related concerns, has dispersed a large number of individuals and families living on the streets. Not surprisingly, many are seeking refuge near the Jordan River. However, the Jordan River Commission is alarmed, along with many in our community, by the sudden rise in the number of homeless camps along some areas of the Jordan River, and its extremely detrimental impacts.
Camping on the river corridor is not legal, except in a few specifically designated camp site locations in parks, intended for recreational use. Homeless camps are destroying years of efforts to restore ecological integrity to the Jordan River, and are bringing elements of drug abuse, human waste, and filth to what should be a safe and natural environment.
As a civilized society, we must address drug addiction, behavioral health, unemployment, domestic violence, and the range of root causes that result in homelessness. We are confident that the advocates, service organizations and agencies across all levels of government are working in a concerted effort to tackle these complex issues.
The Operation Rio Grande has engaged in a coordinated effort of law enforcement agencies throughout the region. They encourage all citizens who live, work and recreate along the Jordan River to help identify and address the growing concerns and impacts.
Life-threatening or criminal activity should always be reported immediately to 911. Other evidence of camping, drug use, human waste, and trash, should be directed to local law enforcement. You may call Operation Rio Grand hotline, 385-266-6938, or visit the Operation Rio Grande website at http://operationriogrande.utah.gov for more information, to find contact information, to report issues, and to volunteer or contribute to efforts to address homelessness.
Together, we can make a difference. Our concerted efforts will help keep the Jordan River a safe and healthy place.
-Soren Simonsen, Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission