Parks can be havens for leisure or exercise, but when the area around a park deteriorates, or when a regional park attracts a broad clientele, the open space can be an arena for trouble.
While Jordan Park, 1000 S. Ninth West, is home to acres of playground and the International Peace Gardens, it is also the stage for an abnormally high number of murders and other violent crimes.Last summer, one man was beaten and shot, and another was beaten, robbed and left to die in Jordan Park. Less than two weeks ago, a homicide victim was found in the Jordan River adjacent to the Peace Gardens.
Many areas of the Jordan Park are dark and secluded, providing havens for criminals with more on their minds than a picnic.
"This is kind of a tough neighborhood," said Rick Graham, assistant director of parks for Salt Lake City, explaining the high crime rate at Jordan Park.
But Jordan Park isn't the only city park that attracts violent crimes like a magnet.
Pioneer Park downtown has a train locomotive on static display that would thrill most any youngster. Yet the park, located on Third West, is shunned by the public because of its reputation - a well-deserved one - as a hangout for vagrants and other undesirables during the daylight hours.
And when darkness falls, the locomotive is far from the park's biggest attention-getter, as police routinely respond to frequent stabbings, robberies and other assaults on the park's grounds.
While the parks department sinks a great deal of money and resources into maintaining its parks, it doesn't have the funds to provide security. "We don't have rangers" with law enforcement capabilities, Graham said.
Salt Lake City attracts more than its share of trouble because the downtown area is a collecting place for people who end up in the Salt Lake Valley with nowhere else to go.
City parks can by no means be written off as permanent enclaves for hoodlums, however. Liberty Park in Salt Lake City's Central City area once was plagued by murders, rapes and other problems.
But after years of making improvements on the park, limiting traffic and changing areas of the park once frequented only by trouble-makers into a children's playground, Liberty Park has been returned to families.