It's possible that some day, when Salt Lake County's population has doubled, the Jordan River will be a preserved riparian corridor, with 200-foot setbacks and more trails than sports fields along its banks.
That's the vision shared by a majority of some 1,200 people who attended open houses and took online surveys about the future of the Jordan River. Initial results of data collected by the Blueprint Jordan River project say residents prefer the river to be natural with less development and more protection and they're looking to their city and county leaders to make that vision a reality.
"My interpretation of (the study results) is that people feel that so much of the Jordan River is developed already that they'd like to see the remaining open areas remain that way," said Gabe Epperson, planning director of Envision Utah, which is facilitating the project in conjunction with Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties. "I don't see it as necessarily something saying there is anything wrong with development, it's just saying 'We've already developed half of the corridor, let's put more of an emphasis on preserving or restoring the natural areas."'
A total of 1,288 people attended Blueprint workshops in May and took online surveys. Most of the participants were between 30 and 44 years old and live more than two miles away from the river. About 5 percent of the participants own property on the river.
The results of the survey were heavily in favor of the environmental aspects of the river. Almost 60 percent of respondents said the Jordan River should be a green corridor, rather than a recreation or mixed-use corridor. Almost 70 percent said the river should be preserved as a natural area, and the top concerns for the river are water quality and ecosystem health.
More of the survey's results can be found at www.blueprint.slco.org.
Although the survey results trend away from developing the 44-mile-long river, that doesn't necessarily mean the river wouldn't also be an economic boon, said Erick Allen, a member of the project's economic development research team.
"Even if you can strike the environmentalist perspective and look at it strictly from an economic development standpoint, there is a lot of utility in thinking about how to, in essence, modify development practices to consider the long-term view," Allen said.
It will be up to individual cities to accept and implement master plan suggestions the Blueprint project will compile over the next year. More open houses will be hosted in September to gather more public input on what people would like to see in the Jordan River's future."This will be a whole toolbox of proposed ordinances of how cities can protect the land along the river and how it can be used as an economic development generator," said Lorna Vogt, open space manager for Salt Lake County. "When we're really going to get comments is when we go into each individual city and sit down with the council members and the mayor and say, 'This is what the people said they wanted; how are we going to make it happen?' That's when it will get really interesting."