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Salt Lake City eager to jump on its parks bond before interest rates climb too high

A rendering of what Glendale Regional Park could look like once Salt Lake City approves financing for its $85 million parks and open space bond.
Glendale Regional Park Master Plan
Salt Lake City Public Lands
A rendering of what Glendale Regional Park could look like once Salt Lake City approves financing for its $85 million parks and open space bond.

Thanks to voters, Salt Lake City will spend $85 million on parks, trails and open space improvements in the coming years. Now, city leaders are determining what to do with the first tranche of money.

Salt Lakers overwhelmingly — over 70% — passed the general obligation bond last November. Playground replacements, landscaping and a new regional park are all planned in the first $25 million phase.

With financial markets showing signs of uncertainty, city officials are eager to get started as the bond market could still change in the coming months before financing begins.

“The market expectations are that we probably will have another interest rate hike, at least one, maybe even two,” Treasurer Marina Scott told the city council at a June 6 meeting.

According to the city, the current bond interest rate is about 5.5%. The bond cannot exceed 6%. If rates do exceed 6% before the bond sale, the process starts over, according to city staff.

“If [the interest rate] does exceed [6%], then we're back at square one again, right?” asked Councilor Dan Dugan.

“Yes,” said Scott.

If things go according to the city’s timeline, the city will meet with rating agencies in July and begin selling the bonds in August.

“Rates are creeping up,” said Scott. “So we are expecting some change. We don't expect a significant change, but we will see what happens closer to the bond sale date.”

Once construction does begin, Glendale Regional Park is slated for a $9 million transformation. The park would bring better open space for residents of the city’s west side. According to the Glendale Regional Park Master Plan, the goal is to have public recreation at the site by 2024.

Formerly the site of the defunct and abandoned Seven Peaks Waterpark, the land at 1200 West and 1700 South has sat vacant since 2018. Now, future plans could include space for food trucks, trails, playgrounds and access to the nearby Jordan River.

And the public is eager to see improvements, too.

Erika Priest regularly takes her four small kids to Salt Lake City’s parks. Integrating water features that will help her family stay cool on hot days would be a nice addition to the city’s open spaces.

"There's a new park that they just opened in Bountiful right near Town Square,” she said. “It's like a river on concrete type deal and it is so fun. But having, like, a water play area that isn't just like shooting up spraying kind of thing. That’s where my brain is at.”

Others, like 24-year-old Florida transplant Brian LeRocque, would like to see more community-focused amenities at future parks.

“Like morning yoga or volunteers who have musical ears and want to teach people how to play music and just to get the community more involved with the park so they can get out and enjoy the scenery instead of being stuck inside all day.”

The Salt Lake City Council could give formal approval of the bond financing process at its next meeting on June 13.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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