All summer, the noise and dust of dumping irritated residents of a Taylorsville neighborhood. There were "dump trucks bringing load after load after load of road fill," said Maureen Brown, 1978 Rocky Road.
"Not only the dust, but the noise was unbearable. By 5 o'clock we who live all along the edge of this would be in tears."The dirt and debris were road base material dug up by the Utah Department of Transportation in a project to widen 5400 South. The dump site was once a gravel pit but has not been used for that for many years.
The area borders 2200 West, from Vista Elementary School at 4925 South to about 5067. It is a sprawling no-man's land in the middle of homes, church buildings and baseball diamonds.
Tom DeSpain, public works operations manager for Murray, said the city has owned the former gravel pit for "quite a few years" and the city "used it as a landfill in the past. About three years ago, we shut it (the landfill) down." Now Murray has been hauling in dirt to fill the pit to the elevation of nearby property.
Trucks' tailgates banged interminably as they unloaded the fill a few rods from homes. Once a truck had mechanical trouble, and the driver lifted and lowered its bed for about 20 minutes straight.
At last Brown couldn't take any more.
"He kept pulling forward and banging and backing up and pulling forward. I finally jumped in my car and went down and said, `How long is this going on?' He said, 'I don't know, call the city.' "
This week, I walked through the upper section of the huge vacant lot: flat, barren land with sparse yellow grass, sometimes 2 feet high. An old tar bucket. Heaps of fill dirt. A broken pallet, insulation, boards, formed concrete, a long strip of bright blue torn plastic, a motor oil container. Dead thistle bushes. Sunflowers on a rangy stalk. A telephone book from a public phone was splayed open, pages moldering back to the elements.
Flipping over fiberboard and other junk with my walking stick, I found the earth lifeless, without lizards, snakes or even scorpions. A single moth buzzed toward me. There was a distant beep-beep-beep of earth-moving machinery, apparently coming from 4700 South, where a new supermarket is being constructed.
I looked out over the part where the gravel pit itself was, now about 15 feet lower than the upper section. That's where the road base was dumped. There were acres of newly deposited dirt, creased with tire tracks. The new slope was inundating a cottonwood tree.
The edge was littered with concrete slabs, a twisted metal culvert, a broken concrete pipe, dirt, gravel.
On the other side of this landscape sore, 5000 South deadends at the dump. It is just past the intersection with Galileo Lane, 2010 West (only the street sign calls it 2010 Weat). A storm fence topped with barbed wire has a gate in it, with a yellow sign proclaiming "NO TRESPASSING - VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED."
Larry Hiller, one of Brown's neighbors, said that after the gravel pit was abandoned, nature reasserted herself, and the pit sprouted tall cottonwoods. For some reason, they were taken out recently.
"Until three years ago you used to be be able to hear meadowlarks calling in the pit . . . You could hear pheasants," he said. Now, with the heavy equipment hauling in many tons of fill from the road project, almost nothing is left natural.
"They'd come right down through the residential area," Brown said. "It was so nerve-wracking all summer." She and Hiller agree that the naturalness of the area should be restored.
The one thing they don't want is yet another baseball diamond. Three ball diamonds are nearby and another is planned for Vista Elementary.
"There're games going on all summer long from 8 o'clock in the morning till 11 at night," Brown said. "We really don't want another ball diamond behind us with those big lights."
"It would be a nice place for a park," Hiller said. "For years we, the residents, have been promised a park."
They would like to see trees planted. Maybe, Hiller said, a special improvement district could be set up to help with the financing.
After all, a hundred years ago Salt Lake City was famous as the "city of trees," but lately urban forestry seems to be overlooked.
Yet a natural area of trees and grass has incalculable value. Besides cooling the region with moisture and shade, trees are a delight to the heart.
"We would like to see it reseeded to grass and have some trees planted, back to the way it was before," Brown said. "We'd like it put back in the natural state - a place for the kids to play if they don't want to go down to the church ballpark."
Taylorsville residents look at the dust and rubble and piles of dirt, and in their minds' eyes they see an urban greenbelt. After putting up with this inconvenience for years, the neighbors deserve no less. And after decades of being gouged and dumped on, nature should get another chance.