Any great recreation action in or near your neighborhood?
Think about it. If recreational opportunities near your home were subjected to Olympics-style judging, would your community get a 9.8 - or closer to a not-so-zippy zip?Are your kids sprouting fins from daily trips to the waterslide down the street? Or has your spouse started having mail forwarded to the neighborhood ball diamond?
Perhaps your idea of summer fun is a take-out order of Moo Goo Gai at the city park picnic table? Or maybe you join in a neighborhood exodus to find leisure somewhere else?
While a good sledding hill is a premium after a winter storm, in-town outdoor rec-reation really belongs to the warm weather season when the grass is green, school is in recess and the twilight is pushed further and further into the evening.
Private enterprise enters the picture with Lagoon-style amusement parks, sports malls, health clubs and some golf courses, but the business of developing rec-reation facilities is largely the burden of local governments.
And while it would be easy to assume that the most populated areas or the cities with the highest taxes would have the best recreation facilities, the assumption falls victim to a number of exceptions.
Copperton, for example, is a tiny community wedged in the mouth of Bingham Canyon on the west edge of Salt Lake County. There is only one road leading in and out of town, and yet the spacious town park has acre after acre of grass and a bowery, picnic tables, barbecue pits, tennis courts and a well-developed playground. Residents there try to keep news of the park quiet because it already bulges with out-of-town visitors on weekends.
South Jordan, on the other hand, has the dubious honor of having the highest local taxes in the valley, yet it has only one park. But that's just half of the story. The city's 25 acres of marginally developed park is situated next to a county-operated equestrian park, which combines to make the overall situation a real recreational plum for horse owners.
A desire for more park space was a major factor leading to West Valley City's incorporation, said Gregg Cudworth, supervisor of parks planning for West Valley City. The city's park space is still underdeveloped, he said, but now it's a local taxing issue, not a county matter influenced by communities on the opposite side of the valley.
The quest for variety also leads to controversy, on occasion, as communities disagree on what kinds of recreation their municipality should offer-and who should pay the bill.
The idea of building a minicipal swimming pool in West Jordan simply will not die even though a bond election that would have provided the financing for such a project was soundly defeated two years ago. More than half of the city's population is under 18 - prime clients for a public pool. But the bond went down in a blazing defeat, according to bond backers, because none of the youngsters who would have used the pool were old enough to vote.
The conjecture about the swimming pool election in West Jordan is borne out by a study conducted last year in the Kaysville area in Davis County.
When people were asked what kinds of recreational facilities they wanted, a swimming pool topped the list. But a public pool was quickly seen as a taxation issue. Even those who said they wanted a pool were divided when the question of using public funds arose: only 51.6 favored using tax money.
When a community can't agree on whether to use property taxes to help build recreation facilities, a special service district is an option that lets a subset of the overall community assume the burden of paying for a facility it wants.
Both the Alta Canyon Sports Center in Sandy and the Cottonwood Heights Community Recreation Center were built after special service districts were formed within existing political boundaries. Residents inside the service district have an additional assessment on their property taxes that helps pay for the project. All others are charged higher fees for using the facility.
Tightening budgets have also prompted better coordination between city and county recreation planners and school districts. It also fuels struggles between mayors, each of whom would like to see a new county golf course dropped inside his city's boundaries - not in the city next door.
Cities are also being more creative in their approach to park development: tennis courts are built atop culinary water storage tanks; some cities require developers to set aside land for neighborhood parks or "tot lots" when developing subdivisions, with the city assuming responsibility for their upkeep once built.
Retention basins that hold flood waters for a day or two after major storms are planted in grass and furnished with playground equipment. They're under water very occasionally. The rest of the time they're a neighborhood amenity.
The needs for future park development also vary from place to place. Only one-fourth of the land in West Jordan is developed with streets and buildings, said Public Works Director Bob Davis. The park development issue will be alive in the city for many years, he said.
South Salt Lake, on the other hand, is an older community where the only open, undeveloped ground was covered with radioactive mill tailings until recently. When the main park was expanded five years ago, the city had to buy and bulldoze several houses adjacent to the park to create needed space.
The situation is similar in Midvale, Utah's second oldest city, where officials believe they've been left out of the countywide recreation plan. "They think we're self-sufficient. It seems like they help out everybody else . . . but poor, old Midvale," said Mayor Everett Dahl.
Unless you're a leader in a softball league that learned the hard way that every ball diamond in Salt Lake City is booked solid for the entire season, you may not be aware of the attention elected officials in your area are paying to park and recreation development.
To help shed a little light on the subject, officials in Davis and Salt Lake counties were asked by the Deseret News to describe their communities' philosophies for park development and recreation.
Salt Lake City
Utah's capital city has unusual rec-reation needs because it hosts more tourists on a daily basis than all other Utah cities combined. The daytime population swells as people commute to work from other communities. Salt Lake is also the host for a number of regional parades, celebrations and road races that draw on the resources of the city's larger parks - not to mention the state fairgrounds, which are also inside city boundaries.
Paddle boats, an aviary and a Ferris wheel are examples of extensive development at the 100-acre Liberty Park. Altogether the city has 900 acres of developed park land stuffed with more than 150,000 flowering plants and dozens of ball diamonds.
West Valley City
Incorporation came nine years ago, but ultimate development of the city's recreation facilities is still years in the future.
Parks development is paid for with federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and with developer fees that totaled $84,000 in 1988. "When development of parks is going for $50,000 to $60,000 an acre, it goes fast," Cudworth said.
The county operates the Redwood Multipurpose Center and two parks inside the city, while the city operates four parks of its own. Soccer fields and baseball and softball diamonds are in the most demand.
Midvale's quandary has already been discussed: Not enough space available to develop recreation, unless you can find a way to make a fun house out of the vacant Sharon Steel mill. And yes, the city does have plans to develop a park along the Jordan River once the steel mill site is eventually reclaimed.
The county-operated Copperview Recreation Center and Jordan School District facilities play a major role in the city's recreation program. A park was gobbled up in an expansion of the county's road maintenance shops, but another park nearby will be built once land becomes available closer to the Jordan River.
The city will spend $186,000 this summer adding playground equipment, boweries, picnic tables, backstops, trees and shrubs in the city's two major parks and in some of the 11 smaller parks. Two additional park sites are waiting to be developed.
The city has emphasized 1/2- to 3-acre neighborhood parks, often developed by residents.
A county recreation supervisor has just started working full time in West Jordan and will be expanding the availability of organized recreation activities.
Woods Cross features an eight-week summer recreation program and has tennis courts at both city parks. The city uses school facilities and an LDS Church-owned park for team sports like soccer and baseball.
City Parks and Recreation Director Mike Shea said his city's recreation programs are primarily team sports-oriented. Four baseball leagues are operating with nearly 3,000 boys; more than 3,000 boys and girls play league soccer; nearly 800 girls and more than 1,400 adults are involved in softball; and at least 1,200 kids compete in T-ball.
Sandy also schedules the use of Jordan School District fields at elementary and middle schools.
Shea, who spent 10 years as rec-reation director at the University of Utah, has big ideas. He'd like to import some of the U.'s programs like river running, cross-country skiing and equipment rentals. With $100,000 in seed money, the program could be self-sustaining, he believes.
Ironically, the biggest recreation area and hottest recreation controversy in Sandy is a piece of property that the city does not control - Dimple Dell Park. City officials would like to see a golf course built on a portion of that strip of county-owned land, which cuts east and west through Sandy. But horse owners and many others prefer to see that area remain in its natural state.
Sandy's other recreation controversy is the proposed development of a recreational trail system. Support for bicycling and jogging paths is widespread, but there is disagreement over the extent to which horse trails should be developed and where they should go.
North Salt Lake
North Salt Lake has T-ball, Mustang, Bronco and Pony league baseball at North Salt Lake Park, where there is also a regulation soccer field.
Residents are also close to golf courses, swimming pools and an ice rink in nearby Bountiful.
South Salt Lake
Mayor Jim Davis said the few parks that have been developed since he became mayor 12 years ago have given his city more than just a place to have a picnic - they've given the residents pride and confidence.
Residents who live near the city's largest park, South Salt Lake Community Park (also known as Duck Park), have taken an increased pride in their homes since the park was developed.
Davis said that residents in one area of town were surveyed and asked why they moved into the neighborhood. "The park was one of the top five reasons why people moved here," he said.
While South Salt Lake also has tennis courts, a few baseball diamonds and a smaller neighborhood park (in addition to private facilities and a county park), Davis would like to see more facilities in his city.
"When I was growing up in South Salt Lake, all of this area was farm country," he reminisced. "My kids growing up in the '80s have no place to play except in the streets."
Bountiful boasts an olympic-size skating rink located at the Bountiful Recreation Center. The center also includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gym, weight room, sauna, jacuzzi and six racketball courts.
The city has a second indoor pool, a golf course and five parks. The rec-reation program includes instruction in swimming, skating, golfing, archery and arts and crafts. Bountiful also has organized volleyball, softball, T-ball and basketball leagues.
Because Murray has its own school district, the city's recreation programs overlap nicely with school activities. Fifth- and sixth-grade students rotate to and from the outdoor ice rink at the main city park during winter months, and kids at year-round schools are worked into summer recreation programs when they have school breaks.
Also located in the city's main park is an outdoor swimming pool and a water slide that operate from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and the city offers swimming lessons. Development of Murray's portion of the Jordan River Parkway is considered a high priority and is in the planning and financing stages.
The parks and recreation department also organizes a wide range of team sports.
Although his town is small, Mayor Jerry Thompson believes recreation is important - although he thinks recreation amenities should be self-supporting and not paid for with taxes.
The city used a surplus to build a new golf course, which opened last year.
There's only one park in Draper. "And it's been there since '03," said Mayor Charles Hoffman. But there are other recreation opportunities in town, like the commercial water theme park Magic Waters at 14295 S. State.
Horseback riding is popular, and bicycle racing is up-and-coming. The two activities are compatible with the community and welcome on the roads because traffic is light. "There's more horses out here than people," Hoffman said.