Seven Canyons Fountain at Liberty Park to become a ‘dry’ art feature

Mar 29, 2023, 8:00 AM

A sign indicating the Seven Canyons Fountain's water has been turned off stands in front of the fou...

A sign indicating the Seven Canyons Fountain's water has been turned off stands in front of the fountain at Liberty Park on April 27, 2021. Salt Lake City officials say the fountain will be converted into a "dry art feature" in the future. (Carter Williams/KSL.com)

(Carter Williams/KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — The seven creeks that flow through the Salt Lake Valley are thriving as a result of a record-setting winter within the snowpack basin that fuels all seven of the creeks.

However, the artistic representation of these seven waterways will remain dry as a bone.

Salt Lake City officials announced Tuesday that they plan to move forward with an idea to turn the 30-year-old Seven Canyons Fountain at Liberty Park into a “dry” art feature, meaning that the water that once flowed through the play area will now be filled in with “specialty concrete finishes” that represent water.

The decision was made after a feasibility study into the issue and public feedback, according to city officials.

“We’re looking forward to showcasing a renewed Seven Canyons Fountain as a way to continue the conversation about water conservation across the state,” said Kristin Riker, director of the city’s public lands department, in a statement.

The fountain opened in 1993 as an artistic representation of the canyons, waterways and mountains around the valley. It was donated to the city by Obert C. Tanner, the founder of O.C. Tanner.

Water flowed through the recreation of Big Cottonwood, City, Emigration, Little Cottonwood, Mill, Parleys and Red Butte creeks. But that feature ended in 2017, as a result of ongoing maintenance issues and public health concerns raised by the county.

City leaders approved more than $850,000 in funding for the fountain’s restoration in 2019. Then, two years later, leaders pulled the plug on that, noting it was “hard to justify” the water use amid drought concerns that rose in 2020. Feasibility studies determined that restoring the water feature could cost as much as $2 million to $4 million every year, and would use 21,000 gallons of water per day, city officials said Tuesday.

So the city determined that a “dry” feature is the best way to keep the spirit of the fountain alive while reducing cost and water use. In addition to the concrete finishes, public lands officials said the fountain will be “modified and enhanced” to symbolize the region’s streams and landscapes. New landscaping, lighting enhancements, handrails and grass turf replacement may also be used in the reconfiguration.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that she’s “sad” that studies found it unfeasible to restore what became an “iconic fixture” in the park but she’s happy that there is a way to reimagine how the fountain is used.

“I’m pleased we’ll be able to preserve it for future generations in an updated form,” she said in a statement.

The city didn’t disclose when construction will begin on the dry art feature or when it will be completed. Stephen Goldsmith and Liz Blackner, two of the fountain’s original artists, said in a statement through the city that they will help design a “transition strategy” as the project moves forward.

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Seven Canyons Fountain at Liberty Park to become a ‘dry’ art feature