Expanded Fitts Park opens; access road concerns some residentsSep 30, 2019 04:31PM ● By Bill Hardesty
View of the Fitts Park access road showing the concerns of some Gregson Avenue residents. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
As you read this, South Salt Lake residents are enjoying activities at Fitts Park (3050 S. 500 East) on both sides of Spring Creek. The long anticipated Fitts Park expansion was completed stretching the park from 300 East to 500 East. The project also included expansion of the Mill Creek Trail.
Fitts Park was opened in 1982 and is named for Robert Fitts, a former town president (the office of mayor didn't start until 1954) of SSL. Mill Creek runs along the south side and Spring Creek meanders through the east and north side park where water from Nibley Golf Course is added until it turns south and joins Mill Creek at the beginning of the expansion.
Sometime ago, the city bought and torn down two small apartment complexes that were nestled along Mill Creek and behind a house on 300 East. This was done with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds. Rather than build new homes on the property, the city decided to expand the park, which was following HUD regulations.
Sharen Hauri, the urban design director of South Salt Lake City, went to work finding money. She came up with $875,500 worth of grants. The city council added $150,000 from park impact fees to get the more than $1 million needed for the expansion.
Grant money has restrictions on how the money can be used.
$825,500 was given as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for east of the bridge and the bridge over Spring Creek.
"CDBG is a federal program of HUD administered through Salt Lake County for our ‘small’ city. The county gets input on the funding and told us items that were not allowed per funding rules or that they didn't think were worth funding," explained Hauri.
An additional $50,000 from a Utah Outdoor Recreation grant was used for the bridge and expanding the Mill Creek Trail.
The City Council assigned $150,000 in parks impact fees for park expansion. These funds were used for demolition, tree removal, repairing asphalt, trail east of the bridge, and lights east of the bridge. Park impact fees are charged to developers as part of building in SSL. Since they are park impact fees, by regulation they must be used for park improvements.
The park expansion includes building the Mill Creek Trail from 500 East to 300 East. This includes a bridge over Spring Creek where it runs joins Mill Creek. Currently, the Mill Creek Trail starts east of 500 East and runs along the creek to 300 East. The trail picks up at the Mill Creek TRAX station and continues west to the Jordan River. In the future the city is hoping to close the gap.
On the west side of the bridge, a new fitness course for children and youth and more picnic tables were added. A bike training course and a 100-yard dash course are painted on the asphalt. A zip line was also installed.
Some residents along Gregson Avenue have voiced privacy and safety concerns about the park expansion. Their homes back up against the access road leading into the park area from 300 East. The city raised the road, which makes it easier to look into their property along with increased foot traffic. There are also new light posts, which could be used to hop over the fence.
In a Sept. 4 City Council meeting, Jeff Heinrichs said, "I can't sit in my backyard with my dogs anymore. People can see right into my yard."
In the same meeting, Sophia Agopian said, "Our privacy and safety came last." She also voiced concern about the grade and the possibility of water running into their backyards.
"I have made the point that there were really no funds that could have been spent on the fence but went to something else. The fence just needed to be a new funding request, which I do support," Hauri said.
The price tag is estimated at $105,000. In the September 18 city council meeting, the money was appropriated out of park impact funds. The city is now waiting for the results of a survey.
One of the main reasons why the price tag is so high is because the property line is not clear. Fences move in and out along the access road, which will require legal work and decisions by property owners. Also, large trees will need to be removed to provide a clean property line for the desired wood fence.