Looking through the bright, forward-tilting lens of a 25-year-old, Ben Trentelman gazes at the park next door and doesn't see the graffiti, the police cruisers, the discarded drug needles or the decaying rest rooms where the sinks serve as showers for the homeless crowd that lives among the trees.

He sees Fairmont Park the way it oughta be, filled with families and light and smiling children using all the swings.

And, on a more personal level, he sees the park as a proper hangout for the teenagers he supervises at the Sugar House Boys and Girls Club, which borders the park.

"Parks are for picnics, not crack," says Ben as he makes plans for yet another Fairmont Festival.

The first such festival was held last October, not long after Ben started working with the Boys and Girls Club teens.

Seeing a need to "take back the park," Ben got the youths involved and together they managed to attract a smattering of Sugar House-area businesses and residents to participate.

But that was just the warm-up.

On Friday, April 4, from 4 to 8 p.m., Fairmont Festival II is scheduled to take place, again under the supervision of Ben and the teens, with an expanded agenda that includes sports demonstrations, an arts fair, live music and booths for local businesses.

Panhandlers, drug dealers, vagrants and vandals need not apply.

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It definitely took a pair of fresh eyes to see the possibilities.

Ben grew up in Ogden, got his degree at the University of Utah and worked in both youth and adult corrections before he hired on last May as a youth development professional at the Sugar House Boys and Girls Club.

He looked around at the extensive facilities that surround the club — the aquatic center, Youth City and the skateboard park.

Then he looked at decrepit Fairmont Park.

It was obvious what didn't fit.

"We take the kids over there to play football or to the skate park," says Ben. "And the problems are right in front of you. There's a homeless issue, and those people are getting way too comfortable with the youth. They're grooming the kids."

He continues, "If families and members of the community start utilizing the park consistently then it will be less habitable for drug use, vandalism and homelessness."

Ben also notes that Fairmont "was a park when that other park was a prison," referring to Sugarhouse Park located on the other side of the business district.

In the old days, land that is now Sugarhouse Park housed the prison while Fairmont hosted all the picnics.

Ben isn't advocating the return of the prison, just the return of Fairmont Park to its former glory.

"It has the potential to go one way or the other right now. The question is whether it will once again become family friendly or turn into another Pioneer Park," he says, drawing a parallel to Salt Lake City's worst-behaved park.

To get involved with Ben Trentelman's Fairmont Fest, call 801-484-0841.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.