Organization of a task force to recommend how to use Ft. Douglas property has been completed by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, Salt Lake City Mayor Palmer DePaulis and Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.
The three politicians will also co-chair the 13-member group, which will include other politicians and representatives from the University of Utah, the Army Reserve, the Legislature, Ft. Douglas, the U.S. Forest Service and citizens at large.Owens and DePaulis also sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci asking his office to send a representative to the group's first scheduled meeting on Jan. 23 to provide technical assistance on how to transfer ownership of the fort to the U. or other groups.
Their letter said the new group will try to develop a consensus among competing interests in the community on how the land should be used if the fort is closed, which was recently recommended by Carlucci and a commission on base closures.
Owens has said if a community consensus can be reached on the use of surplus property there, the Defense Department said that would speed transfer of the property's title - which may be possible without new legislation.
DePaulis said, "There are various proposed uses for surplus land at Ft. Douglas, most of which involve the university. There are many concerns that must be addressed, including continued use by reserve and military units, protection of the environment and future water rights. We will seek the opinion of all who wish to speak."
Owens said, "The closure is many months away, and my own personal view is that any land declared surplus should be conveyed to the University of Utah.
"But it's clear that there is an advantage in starting immediately to assess economic impact and community sentiment for what should be done with the land at Ft. Douglas. Such input will be invaluable in drafting legislation necessary to expedite a transfer of Ft. Douglas property. We plan to hold a series of public hearings."
Owens has said he will - if needed - introduce in coming months a bill about Ft. Douglas, which is in his district. But his two fellow House members from Utah - Republicans Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson - already filed a bill last week to give the fort to the university.
Besides DePaulis, Garn and Owens, the task force will include Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; State Sen. Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake; U. President Chase Peterson; Salt Lake City Councilwoman Roselyn Kirk; and Ft. Douglas Commander Fred J. Hillyard.
Others include Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Dick Christensen; U.S. Forest Supervisor Dale Bosworth; and community representatives Charles Wilson, Jim Byrne and Hugh Hogle.