Proposed Homeless Shelter on the Jordan River

Mayor McAdams and Homeless Site Selection Committee
2001 South State Street, Suite N2-100
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84114

March 20, 2017

RE:   Jordan River Proposed Shelter Sites

Dear Site Evaluation Committee:

We recognize that there is rarely an ideal location for a new shelter, and that no matter where it is ultimately located, there will be impacts to the surrounding area. We also acknowledge that “Not in my backyard,” is not a constructive approach to solving this regional dilemma. However, we encourage the site selection committee to think carefully about our regional goals to revitalize the Jordan River Parkway, and the negative effects that a homeless shelter could have on these efforts.

When settlers entered the Salt Lake Valley, they found a meandering wildlife corridor with a ribbon of water stretching 50 miles at its center. The river flowed through the entire Salt Lake Valley, infused with water from Utah Lake and mountain streams, before emptying into the vast wetlands of the Great Salt Lake.

As our region grew, the river was neglected and abused. And although the growing demand for water continues to stress the river, in recent decades, we’ve seen a new appreciation for the river corridor and more support from the general public to protect it. The appreciation of the corridor is not limited to the local community. The Department of the Interior, in its 2011 “America’s Great Outdoors 50-State Report,” listed completing the Jordan River Parkway as one of the most important projects in the country.

The Jordan River Parkway has the potential to become a shining centerpiece for our region. It offers many opportunities for education through signage, interpretive exhibits, nature centers, wildlife viewing areas, and as a setting for field trips. It provides critical habitat for hundreds of species of native plants and animals and offers a green respite for urban dwellers. The river serves as an amenity for employers, a destination for tourists, and a focal point for redevelopment and urban revitalization projects. The paved and water trails offer residents a way to enjoy a Life Elevated and active outdoor lifestyles. Additionally, the trail provides a regional, non-motorized transportation route that contributes to improved air quality.

In 2008, Envision Utah published the Blueprint Jordan River. This visioning document was the result of a robust community engagement process, and captured the collective imagination of thousands of residents’ ideas for revitalizing the Parkway. The Jordan River Commission is actively facilitating the implementation of this ambitious regional vision. Today, the Commission’s membership includes 25 governmental members and has helped to secure $22 million in new investments in the river corridor. Great progress has been made to date and new investments include the completion of the 45-mile trail, new boater access points, water treatment upgrades, new signage, and ecological restoration.

Sadly, despite these many amenities, the Jordan River Parkway still struggles with a negative stigma. Trail users can encounter the challenges that often come with urban rivers―graffiti, vandalism, drug use, water quality concerns, and a growing number of transient camps and associated sanitation issues. Changing longstanding perceptions takes time. Our goal is for the river corridor to feel safe and inviting, which is unfortunately not always the case today.

We question whether the proposed sites along the river are best situated to effectively serve the most needy of our community. These sites have limited proximity to grocery stores, transit, health care, or potential employment. The swift flowing river itself poses a drowning risk and the water quality is unsuitable for drinking or bathing.

The Jordan River Parkway has much to offer, but faces many predicaments. A new homeless shelter abutting the river could be a serious threat to the progress we have made as a region, and may not best serve those in need.


Signed sincerely by this growing list of representatives of the Jordan River Commission’s Staff, Governing Board, and Technical Advisory Committee:

Laura Hanson, Executive Director, Jordan River Commission
Stan Porter, JRC Governing Board Chair, North Salt Lake Council
Aimee Winder Newton, Past JRC Governing Board Chair, Salt Lake County Council
Chris McCandless, Past JRC Governing Board Chair, Sandy City Council
Dennis Pay, JRC Technical Advisory Committee Chair, South Salt Lake
Tim Brown, Executive Director, Tracy Aviary
Adam Gardiner, Utah House of Representatives
Ron Bigelow, Mayor, West Valley City
David Alvord, Mayor, South Jordan
Rachel Shilton, Utah Division of Water Resources
Elliott Mott, JRC Technical Advisory Committee
Michael Horrocks, JRC Technical Advisory Committee, Wasatch Rowing Foundation
Stephen Willden, City Council, Saratoga Springs
Sage Fitch, JRC Technical Advisory Committee
Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands

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  70. It has taken years and lots of taxpayer money for the Jordan River Parkway to become the fantastic pubic area that it is now. But there is much more work for the commission to do because even with all the work that has gone into it, there are still issues of campers, drug deals, litter and safety. The hope would be that a homeless shelter would not aggravate these problems, even though I do believe that it would.

    The true damage that a homeless shelter has is on the image of the trail. The support that the commission needs to continue improving and maintaining this community resource, comes from people feeling safe while enjoying themselves. A shelter would turnoff many people to using the parkway (same as it has turned people off from visiting the Gateway mall), this would the reduce support, which would in time cause the parkway to return to being an area that is neglected. And while much of the parkway would not be affected, having even a small portion of it seen as a negative would reduce use and support for the whole.

    Please consider the long range goals that would be adversely affected if the shelter is placed by the parkway.

  71. Along with the points made in the article, I would add that the Jordan River is as close to nature as many west side residents get (who, for financial and cultural reasons, do not travel to the nearby mountains or deserts). I live in Glendale and the river is our shoreline trail, our millcreek, our emigration canyon, our corner canyon. It’s where we can see braver, muskrat, bald eagles, countless migrating birds, a priceless view of the mountains. Now, is the relationship with nature threatened by a homeless shelter…. we already have so many transient camps that they, in some way, are already part of the ecosystem. But I think it u fair to them, to us residents, and to the precious experience of nature, to make the river an official hub for the homeless.

  72. Everyone who enjoys the river trail needs to reach out to the Shelter Committee in opposition of the proposed sites. My children enjoy our “nature walks” every evening during the summer. Please do not take this away by placing a shelter near the trail. Please, EVERYONE reach out to Mayor Ben McAdams and tell him to leave the shelter off the trail!!!! Reach out to all committee members! Let’s keep the trail, the river, and the land a place for all to enjoy!

  73. Would the citizens of NYC permit a homeless shelter in or adjacent to their beloved Central Park? No! We too cannot permit a very needed shelter to be located in the same proximity. As a resident who lives next to the Redwood nature preserve section of the JRP, I witness daily the negative fallout the transient population has on this societal treasure.

    This is not a “not in my backyard argument,” but rather a recognition that placing the homeless resource center along the JRP would tarnish a community resource, and increase the problem of transcient living that would be concealed by this natural sanctuary. There is, and should be a better solution.

  74. As someone who virtually lives next to the Jordan River, near 400 South in Salt Lake City, please don’t put any shelters near this gem of a linear park. I can tell you through hard experience that homeless types regularly pass time on the Parkway near where I live either passed out, dealing drugs, sometimes fighting or assaulting each other or passerby’s, and throwing trash around and in the river (to include, but not limited to shopping carts, drug paraphilia, clothing, plastic bottles, and of course feces).

    The Jordan River is a riparian habitat. It’s a leisure zone. It already suffers from massive runoff pollution and the lack of law enforcement presence patrols. Wherever you house homeless people the problems they create through the choices they make will follow them. That’s a fact. That’s why no well-to-do neighborhood in Salt Lake City would tolerate a shelter in their location, and that’s why you’re looking for locations that will result in the lowest possible political ramification.

    I’m telling you right now, if you put a homeless shelter on or near the Jordan River Parkway I will work tirelessly via social media, print media, billboards, and electioneering to ensure everyone who voted for this action is replaced, AND the shelter is moved. I’m retired and I have the money and motivation to do this. I will not let this happen without a fight.

  75. The Jordan River Parkway is the closest place I can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I agree that placing a shelter adjacent to the river will negatively impact the progress we have made to improve the health and beauty of the Jordan River areas.

  76. There is already a huge problem with homeless people living in the woodland refuge area surrounding this stretch of river. The wildfire that occurred during the 2016 summer was the result of a campfire in the thick brush. Placing a homeless shelter in this area will only exacerbate the litter, drug use, and shanty camps that already plague this area. I’ve lived in the adjacent neighborhoods for over 10 years, and it’s a constant problem.

  77. As someone who enjoys cycling the Jordan River Parkway, I thoroughly agree that putting a homeless shelter adjacent to the river would have significant negative impacts to the area.

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