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