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South Salt Lake transforms dirt lot into neighborhood park

Published: Monday, Sept. 23 2013 9:27 p.m. MDT

Jaelynn Phillips smiles as she slides down a slide at McCall Park, South Salt Lake's newest park, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Static made the neighborhood children’s hair stand up while they were busy climbing and sliding in the warm autumn sun at a new park Monday evening.

They ran around kicking up the fragrant woodchips and did cartwheels on the freshly mown grass after a ribbon cutting ceremony for what is temporarily named McCall Park, 3702 S. 250 East.

After nine years of work and a big push this summer, hundreds of volunteers and city employees turned a large dirt lot into a neighborhood park and “tot lot.”

“Really this was just a huge patch of weeds and overgrown vegetation all over the place,” said Aaron Wiet, director of the South Salt Lake Parks and Recreation Department. “It is amazing to see how far this has come.”

The “tot lot” has plenty of grass and a playground, brought over from Central Park Community Center, for the neighborhood’s 270 children under 5 years old and their families.

“When we did analysis of where our youth are in this city, our largest concentration of zero- to 5-year-olds is in this neighborhood right here,” South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood said, “so how appropriate to have a nice park that they can come and enjoy and feel safe in their neighborhood.”

The park was made possible because of donations and volunteers from partnerships with Larry H. Miller Group, K2 the Church, Geneva Rock and General Electric. The organizations held days of service and donated fence slats, tree removal, concrete slabs, sod, benches and a picnic table.

“This has been a huge transformation,” Wood said. “This is just amazing because it was such a small price tag to get such a nice park.”

McCall Park is the result of a city initiative now in its third year called Community Connection, a program aiming to “create a safe, clean and beautiful city.” This particular Community Connection area covers the neighborhoods between Helm Avenue and 3900 South, and between State Street and 300 East.

Glenn Smith, director of South Salt Lake Urban Livability, said the Community Connection program is doing things such as deterring graffiti and increasing families’ property values by helping income-qualified homeowners paint their homes and replace their roofs.

“Hopefully what (this park) does is bring this community closer together and is just a safe and fun place to play,” Wiet said.

The mayor’s 6-year-old son seemed to approve of the playground.

“I like climbing on this,” Jaxson Wood said while he clambered over a railing and hung upside down. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

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