WEST VALLEY CITY — Salt Lake County leaders on Tuesday celebrated the grand opening of Lodestone Regional Park, one of three regional parks funded by the $47 million park bond authorized by voters in 2012.
The park, shared between Kearns and West Valley City at 6252 W. 6200 South, had been under construction since September 2014 as part of the county's push to create more green space and recreational assets for residents.
The new park's main features include a playground, basketball courts donated by the Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Charities, a giant mining truck tire donated by Kennecott, a multipurpose athletic field, a large pavilion, and tennis and pickleball courts.
Salt Lake County residents may be seeing even more parks, recreation centers and trails popping up in the coming years — that is, if they give Salt Lake County the thumbs up in November.
On the general election ballot, Salt Lake County voters will be asked to weigh in on Proposition A, a proposal that would allow the county to issue $90 million in bonds to build new parks, trails and recreation centers, as well as renovate and maintain existing facilities.
If passed, the parks and recreation bond would provide $59 million to build 11 new projects and $31 million for upkeep and improvement for existing parks and trails.
Proposition A builds upon the Zoo Arts and Parks (ZAP) tax that voters passed by 77 percent in 2014, a 10-year extension of a tenth-of-a-cent sales tax to support parks, as well as arts, cultural and zoological programs.
In 2006, voters approved the second iteration of ZAP, and Proposition A would continue that funding by extending the levy that charges $18.18 per year on a home valued at $295,200.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said in a meeting this week with the Deseret News and KSL editorial board that he anticipates voters will approve the $90 million bond because it's not a tax increase, only a "continuation" of taxes Salt Lake County residents have already approved to pay for recreation projects — amenities they've consistently valued in the past.
The county, McAdams said, can't keep up with the hunger for more recreation amenities — especially multiuse fields.
"We’re a rapidly growing county that has chosen to include parks and open space for our families and visitors, now and in the years to come," McAdams said Tuesday. "Everyone deserves access to places where they can get out and exercise, relax and unwind from work and school. It’s an important part of building healthy families and vibrant communities."
Erin Litvack, County Community Services director, said residents told the county in a 2012 survey that parks and green space were a top priority.
"And I think you see that reflected in how we utilize these funds," Litvack said.
She also pointed out that the 11 planned projects span throughout Salt Lake County — from east to west, north to south — in order to serve all of the county's residents.
Some of the most notable projects that would rise from Proposition A approval include Welby Regional Park in South Jordan, for $12 million, and Draper City Recreation Center, for nearly $20 million.
Welby Regional Park would span nearly 50 acres and include up to five multiuse sports fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, field hocky and football.
Martin Jensen, Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation director, said Welby would be a game changer for South Jordan.
"It will change that area," he said. "It will be a destination. It will, in my opinion, increase property values. It'll be wonderful."
The recreation center in Draper would be a 36,000-square-foot facility with a competition lap pool, spectator seating, a leisure pool with a water slide, child care, a fitness area, trails, open space, a playground and space for a future gym.
As part of the $31 million for improvement projects, several county parks would receive upgrades, including the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park in South Jordan — an infusion of cash county officials planned after hearing outcries from the horse community worried about their dilapidated park's future.
Billy Hesterman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayer's Association, said his watchdog group has taken a "neutral" position on the bond, noting that it's revenue neutral for taxpayers.
But Hesterman did urge Salt Lake County taxpayers to mull the county's list of projects before voting for or against Proposition A.
He noted that while taxpayers typically want their parks to be well-maintained, they have to ask themselves whether the bond will be paying for amenities that already exist in their neighborhoods.
"Voters should take a look at the full list and decide if that's improving the quality of life for the county or if it's just excessive government spending," Hesterman said. "That's something the voters need to evaluate."