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Vision for Riparian Restoration in Salt Lake City

Note:  a 16-page Nature in the City Vision booklet is currently in production and should be available by April 20, 2015

Nature in the City Vision booklet cover

Above:  Nature in the City vision statement booklet cover

Download the Preliminary, Incomplete DRAFT Vision Statement Booklet (.pdf)

The vision of our broad and ever-growing coalition of individuals, public interest groups, government agencies, educators , communities, corporations and organizations of all other types, is for a connected  series of 17 nature parks and restored riparian wildlife habitat along the Jordan River corridor all the way across Salt Lake City from its southern to northern border.  We propose that our city become an internationally recognized icon of right-action with respect to the great work of the 21st century:  repairing the catastrophic damage to the biosphere that has resulted from the build-up of human population and  industrial civilization primarily in the 20th century and primarily within our own lifetimes.  This great work must begin somewhere.   Our vision is for it to begin, for us, right here within our own city and neighborhoods.

This "Nature in the City" park system we envision would eventually encompass some large (150 acres or more) blocks of remaining open space as well as smaller, linear areas of existing city park land adjacent to the Jordan River and Jordan Parkway Trail.  Larger blocks of restored wildlife habitat have disproportionately greater ecological value in sustaining locally viable populations of native animal and plant life.

As we use the terms, "nature parks" or "urban wilds" are places where entire communities of plants and animals are restored as much as possible, within the constraints of an urban setting, to their composition and condition prior to alteration by human settlement , industrialization and urbanization.   The goals of such restoration must be flexible to respect, as well,  the urban setting and the needs of the surrounding human communities.  Exact "restoration" of the ecological conditions at any particular point in history is not so important as the broader principle of respecting, enhancing, and celebrating the diversity and beauty of native plant and animal communities.

We envision:

  1. Enrichment of  our quality of life through opportunities for total immersion within a luxuriant green tunnel of native trees and plants, floored with a mirror of river water
  2. Conversion of the Jordan River corridor both in our city and throughout its entire length, into an internationally significant showcase for  the restoration of nature's beauty and diversity within the heart of a large urban area.
  3. Dramatic improvement of the quality of the outdoor recreation experience for residents and visitors using the 40-mile long Jordan River Parkway.
  4. Prevention of further loss of ecologically rich river bottom lands to commercial and residential  development, especially within the active flood plain and historic meander corridor of the Jordan River.
  5. Healing of wounds to the riparian ecosystem resulting from urban sprawl, trash, pollution and fragmentation.
  6. Reversal of a long-term trend of water quality degradation through installation of bioswale and sediment-trap filtration systems to remove pollutants, especially "dissolved solids" (sediment) from the river water.
  7. Long-term preservation of connectivity for migratory birds across a major urban barrier along overlapping arms of two major international, transcontinental flyways.
  8. Short-term payback to the city for its investment in riparian restoration from increased property tax revenue from  existing and future commercial and residential properties along the margins of the natural greenway.
  9. Long-term economic benefits resulting from ever-increasing competitiveness of our city in recruiting the highly mobile, cutting-edge technology industries and companies that  are the backbone of economic growth world-wide, since the owners and employees of such companies prefer to live in cities that protect their natural assets.
  10. Gradual or, in some cases, swift transformation of urban industrial sprawl along the river corridor into clean, healthy, green native plant gardens.
  11. Opportunities for economically disadvantaged kids and adults on Salt Lake City's west side to experience the beauty and wonder of wild nature within their own neighborhoods.
  12. The creation of "nature centers" within some of the proposed "nature parks", to provide both indoor as well as outdoor centers of learning where the high-demand skills of our current century (of land, water, and ecosystem restoration) can be learned in outdoor classrooms and restoration practice areas called "nature parks."
  13. Enhancement of the education of primary, secondary, college and graduate students through direct in-situ exposure to a recovering ecosystem, through on-the-job training in the restoration arts.