Salt Lake City giving Pioneer Park a Makeover
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Salt Lake City is giving Pioneer Park a makeover aimed at making the crime-plagued park more welcoming and friendly to everyone.
City leaders broke ground today on improvements that should be complete before winter sets in. The city will build a large multi-purpose field and a concrete path to attract more people.
“We are here to celebrate the beginning of a new era for Pioneer Park,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski at a groundbreaking ceremony this morning.
Pioneer Park was established 120 years ago as a community-gathering place. But, the city admits the park has failed in that mission. It has a history as a scary place, populated by drug dealers and the homeless.
More people are living downtown, and the city wants everyone to feel safe and welcome in Pioneer Park. So, it’s time for a major makeover to bring more people to the park and make it safer.
“The park isn’t functioning well. There’s a lot of negative activity that happens in this park,” said Kristin Riker, Director of Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands.
The exception is the Farmers Market, which thrives on Saturdays.
“We want events like that to happen on a regular basis so people will come down here,” she said.
The city will take out 53 trees, and put in a multi-use field slightly larger than a soccer field. It will be circled by 23 new sycamore trees.
“We will soon be able to host youth sports, after work leagues, weekend ultimate Frisbee games and hopefully a Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl,” said Mayor Biskupski.
On the perimeter, a ten-feet wide concrete walkway with lighting. It will be used by pedestrians and the Farmers Market.
“We want to get those people out of the park that are here to break the law. We want those who are coming just for a quiet space, and that includes the homeless, to feel comfortable here, as well as the rest of the public,” said David Garbett, Executive Director of Pioneer Park Coalition.
Garbett said it’s no secret that crime has kept people away for decades. But, this time, he believes the city can change the atmosphere in the park.
“A lot of cities have had a similar problem,” he said.
The best solution? Engage the public in the park.
“What we want to do is have activities like that (the Farmers Market) across the week, and venues where people feel like they can come to the park because they know that there will be a critical mass and then it will be a safe place,” he said.
“More people, more eyes on the park watching what’s happening,” said Riker. “People are much less likely to commit a crime if they think that somebody is watching them or they’re out in the open.”
Operation Rio Grande, launched a year ago, helped reduce crime in the neighborhood, said Garbett. He believes they can capitalize on that momentum.
“We still have problems here,” he said. “By no means is this among the safest places in the state. But it’s been a huge improvement.”
The cost of the improvements is around $900,000, paid for in part by a $300,000 donation by the Pioneer Park Coalition.
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