SALT LAKE CITY — In 1847, Brigham Young came into what is now the Salt Lake Valley and extolled, “This is the right place,” and a monument and park pay tribute to that famous phrase. But the first Mormon settlers, who landed ahead of him, set up their first encampment in what is today the Sugar House neighborhood.
That story will be told through the creative engineering and landscape architecture of the Draw at Sugar House, according to environmental architect and designer Patricia Johanson.
The Draw — a tunnel — comprises three interwoven trails, a bicycle and pedestrian highway crossing, a wildlife migration corridor and a series of landscape features meant to evoke the historical journey of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley.
“One of the things I try to do is combine art with engineering efficiency,” said Johanson. “Basically, it’s a unique design for this time and place that is useful on many levels.”
The Draw, which cost $5.3 million, was part of the $10.5 million tunnel project that was funded federally with a 20 percent local match in 2005, with funding for the Sugar House phase of the trail approved by voters in November 2012.
The final phase of the project is scheduled for completion by 2016. On Thursday planners toured the nearly finished tunnel, which travels under 1300 East near 2100 South.
The Draw is a key component for Parleys Trail, which will link neighborhoods with a multiuse trail that runs from the mouth of Parleys Canyon to the Jordan River Parkway Trail. When complete, the Draw will feature a plaza shaped like a sego lily, the state flower that helped sustain the earliest Mormon pioneers, explained Johanson.
“They didn’t die because of this flower,” she said. “It’s not the beauty of the flower. It’s the practicality of the flower.”
Johanson said history indicates that settlers were able to survive the harsh winters by eating the potato-like bulb of the sego lily.
The trail in Sugarhouse Park will tie in with the sego lily artwork on the west end of the park. On the Sugar House side, the tunnel will be 45 feet wide, then narrow to 25 feet on the Hidden Hollow side.
In preparing her design, Johanson studied diligently on the past in order to develop a better understanding of the events and landmarks that were important in the development of the Salt Lake Valley.
Johanson has brought a historical context to the project with her design elements, said Karen Hale, honorary chair of the Friends of the Draw — the community group that helped raise money for the project.
“It really connects all of us to the history of this place,” she said.
The design of the project is a "memorialization" of the early Mormon pioneers' journey into the Salt Lake Valley, Johanson explained.
The Draw at Sugar House Park will link a sculptural “Sego Lily” dam with floodwalls and spillway that recall the Mormon journey through Echo Canyon. The north petal of the Sego Lily, which has 30-foot-high walls, tips over to become an overlook, while the south petal forms a bus shelter and a low wall along the highway that offers a view of the plaza and entrance to the pedestrian crossing below.
At the center of the “lily” will sit a miniature Great Salt Lake.
Johanson, an accomplished artist as well as an eco-engineer, also designed nature and history-oriented projects in Dallas; San Francisco and Petaluma, Calif.; New York City; and South Korea.
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