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Dedication Friday Recognizes Salt Lake Valley's Largest Open Space

Conservation groups and Native American tribes worked with state and local agencies to preserve an extraordinary patch of open space along the Jordan River.

A ceremony on Friday highlights their efforts.

For more than 15 years, Wendy Fisher’s been working on preserving more than two hundred and fifty acres at the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley as executive director of Utah Open Lands. Her group helped forge a conservation easement that’s intended to protect this tranquil river valley from development forever. But Fisher recalls how lawmakers talked a few years ago about building a transit stop here, surrounded by homes and businesses.

“To think we could have lost that,” she says. “That certainly would really have not benefited the quality of life in the way this property does.”

As one of Gov. Gary Herbert’s first official acts, he went ahead and signed the conservation easement in 2009.

Wetlands, grasslands and trees along the Jordan River are protected from development now. And people walk, run, bike and ride their horses through it every day. The conservation easement also protects wildlife and the evidence of 3,000 years of Native American communities.

“One of the other unique things about this property is it brings together a number of different organizations,” says Trent Bristol, who manages the Galena-Soo’kahni Preserve for the Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands.

“We’ve really been able to work closely with a lot of other agencies and organizations and develop some really good partnerships.”

Darrell Donalson and his wife have enjoyed the area for years, and they’re happy its best features are safeguarded now.

“There’s a lot of places to walk, but there’s the traffic and the noise,” he says. “But down here the noise is the birds, and we see a lot of deer. So, it’s pristine almost, and quiet.”

The Utah Transit Authority plans a dedication Friday for the sundial it’s constructed along the Jordan River Parkway Trail to honor Native American tribes with ties to the area.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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