Movie Night helps Millcreek develop sense of community as incorporation effort marches forward
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
MOUNT OLYMPUS — As the sun set over the Oquirrh Mountains on Friday night, Doug and Becky Wilkes were settling into their lawn chairs to watch "Shrek Forever After."
Outdoors. On an elementary school playing field. With a few hundred of their neighbors. And their neighbors' children. And their neighbors' dogs.
Welcome to Movie Night in Millcreek Township, an event organizers say is intended to create community and a sense of identity for the swath of the east side of Salt Lake Valley that 63,500 people call home.
"I think events like this help the community. It gives it a sense of community. It brings people out. It makes it feel more hometown-ish," said Becky Wilkes.
Millcreek Movie Night, now in its fourth year, rotates among four neighborhoods in the township — Mount Olympus, Canyon Rim, East Millcreek and Millcreek. If the township were a city, as a group seeking incorporation would like it to be, it would be the fifth largest in Salt Lake County and the 10th largest in the state.
Most people interviewed prior to Friday's movie at Eastwood Elementary School said they were undecided about the proposal to incorporate the area into a city. They generally agree that the area suffers from a lack of identity, but they are unsure whether incorporation is the solution to that issue.
The first of two public hearings on a recently published consultants' report on incorporating the township will be conducted from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Christ United Methodist Church, 2375 E. 3300 South.
If backers of incorporation collect the required number of signatures on petitions, the issue could be placed on a future general election ballot.
Depending upon where they live, Millcreek residents may more closely identify with the neighboring municipality of Murray, Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Holladay, Taylorsville or West Valley City.
As Jeff Silvestrini, longtime chairman of the Mount Olympus Community Council, explains, "Sometimes you have to ask people what color their trash can is to find out where they live."
Residents of the unincorporated county are served by a sanitation district that uses black garbage cans and blue recycling cans.
The respective community councils of Millcreek continue to institute changes to help the area develop a sense of self.
In addition to Movie Night, the township has for the past six years sponsored the Venture Outdoors Festival. The festival was launched to raise awareness, participation and appreciation for Utah's many recreational opportunities.
The community councils are also working with the Utah Department of Transportation to ensure signs leading to the township says Millcreek Township.
Mount Olympus Community Councilwoman Jemina Keller took on the U.S. Postal Service to accept Millcreek as a place name for addresses in the township boundaries.
"I took on the federal government," Keller said. "Now it's officially in their database."
Bit by bit, Millcreek Township has come into its own, Silvestrini said.
"We're working at it. We're actually seeing the fruit of that from over the years," he said.
Movie Night was the brainchild of Aimee McConkie, chairwoman of the Canyon Rim Community Council. Some of the films have attracted more than 400 people — moms, dads, babes in arms, wiggly toddlers, groups of teens seeking other groups of teens and a few grandparents.
"It helps us build community, and it gives people a reason to appreciate where they live," McConkie said.
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