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Salt Lake City Seeks To Create More Equitable Outdoor Spaces For Residents

A photo of a brick and iron gate opening to a park, the arch reads 'International Peace Gardens.'
Emily Means
The International Peace Gardens is on the west side of Salt Lake City. It’s housed within Jordan Park.

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Salt Lake City is taking on a master planning process to figure out what the future of its public lands will look like over the next two decades.

It’s called “Reimagine Nature,” and it includes the way residents use and access parks, trails, forests and even golf courses.

Nancy Monteith, the project’s manager, said one of the main goals is to improve equity in the city’s public spaces. But that can mean something different across communities, which is why she said it’s important to talk to diverse groups of people.

“One of the simplest metrics is physical access,” Monteith said. “But I think equity starts to get into much more nuanced feelings. It's access to programming or access to places or how mobile a community is.”

For Erik Ureño, the outdoors have traditionally been a space for white people.

A photo of a sign that reads 'Jordan Park & International Peace Gardens' in front of trees in a park.
Emily Means
Jordan Park is on the west side of Salt Lake City. It has a skate park, along with the International Peace Gardens.

Ureño is part of Latino Outdoors Salt Lake City, a group that’s working to make enjoying nature more accessible to Latino people.

He said involving them in decisions about their community spaces helps them feel like they belong there.

“It gives them a sense of empowerment, and I think it reinforces their right to be there because they actively participated in the development of these parks and these trail systems,” Ureño said.

Ivis Garcia Zambrana is a city planning professor at the University of Utah. Her students have been seeking feedback from underrepresented communities for Salt Lake City’s public lands project, particularly on the west side of the city.

“Something that is important is that the voices of people are reflected in these parks and that they can see not only themselves, but also future generations,” she said.

Garcia Zambrana said that could look like community members painting a mural in their park, or adopting a tree there.

Salt Lake City’s public lands survey is open through Sunday, May 9. It’s available in Spanish and English.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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