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Three Previously Buried Creeks Now See The Light Of Day On Salt Lake City’s West Side

A photo of a bridge at Three Creeks Confluence park.
Emily Means
The meeting point where three creeks that flow into the Jordan River in Salt Lake City is now out in the open, after some University of Utah students conceived the idea in 2014. It’s called the Three Creeks Confluence Park.

When Brian Tonetti, executive director of Sevens Canyons Trust, was a senior at the University of Utah in 2014, he and other students had an idea. They wanted to uncover the meeting point of the Red Butte, Emigration and Parley’s Creeks at the Jordan River on the west side of Salt Lake City.

It was part of the student’s century-long vision to daylight buried streams — literally bringing the creeks, which were paved over and ran through pipes, to light.

So, they pitched it to the city, but Tonetti never thought it would actually happen.

“Taking a parking lot and literally turning it into a creek. It sounds crazy, right?” he said Wednesday at the opening of the Three Creeks Confluence Park. “I think when we first proposed that, it was more so a shot in the dark.”

But he said they found a champion for the project in Kyle LaMalfa, who was a city councilmember at the time.

A photo of a metal and wood public art piece.
Emily Means
Salt Lake City received more than 160 proposals for public art along one of the bridges at the Three Creeks Confluence Park.

Now, the creeks are visible as they flow into the Jordan River. There’s a bridge with public art displayed on it, and native plants line the waterways.

LaMalfa said the new park benefits the community from an equity perspective.

“It’s not just environmental justice in the notion of protection from environmental hazards, but it’s creating opportunities for the west side using natural assets,” LaMalfa said.

Tonetti said the Three Creeks Confluence project uncovered 200 feet of streams, but there are still about 21 miles of buried creeks to bring into the light in Salt Lake City.

“We’ve got a long time, a long way ahead of us,” he said. “But that's why we have a 100-year vision, because that's how long we think it will take to uncover those 21 miles.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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