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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Paul Rowland and Andrew Keddington walk on the Jordan River Trail bridge after competing in a 5K race to mark the bridge's opening in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — As a transportation engineer for the city, Dan Bergenthal has a lot on his plate.

Saturday, he was able to cross off one of the biggest projects — taking nearly 18 years to complete the final connection along the Jordan River Parkway Trail — a 120-foot arch bridge.

"You can now go from Utah Lake to Legacy in Davis County on one trail," Bergenthal said, adding that there's all kinds of wildlife and access to a beautiful ecosystem "right here in the city."

"It gives us a great chance to get out and enjoy nature. All along the trail is beautiful," he said. "There's no way to experience something like that unless you're on the river trail."

The area, near the city-owned and shuttered Fisher Mansion at 1205 W. 200 South, was hardly ever frequented, as there was a huge detour to get around fenced, private land. Now, runners, walkers, bikers and the like can continue along about 45 miles of the trail, spanning from Provo to Farmington.

"It's nice to have more trails in Salt Lake City," said Rebecca Goldstein, a 26-year-old graduate student who was one of the first people to traverse the new bridge portion of the trail during Saturday's celebratory 5K race. She is a dedicated bicycle-commuter and said "anything that helps connect the city for commuting with anything other than by car, is great."

"I just like being outside," Goldstein, a former New Yorker, said. "I love it here."

Of course, there are a lot of players in the completion of the new landmark, as the trail had to go over, under or right through a couple rail yards, a massive utility hub, and the property was owned by a number of private entities.

Acquiring access, Bergenthal said, took some time. Decades, in fact.

The Jordan River Parkway Trail was planned in the 1970s. It's completion, with connections to the Legacy Parkway Trail at the north end and the Murdock Canal Trail at the south, provide more than 100 miles of continuous off-street, paved trail.

"It's a project that spans space and time," said Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa. "It has connected communities across the state."

Many city, county, state, business and community officials worked on the project to finally connect the trail, and, more is in store, as east-west pathways will also lead to the area, Bergenthal said. The $6.7-million bridge project, as well as other trail improvements and connections throughout the valley, is backed by Parks and Recreation bond money, approved by voters, as well as other sources.

"It's such an asset for our community," said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City. She said the project and its completion means a lot to the locals who work on the Jordan River Commission.

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"What an incredible place we live," said Stan Penfold, Salt Lake City Council chairman, who heralded the "amazing view" at the top of the bridge. "This was an opportunity to connect the top of the Wasatch to the very bottom of the Great Basin."

"It's a great realization of a dream," said Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane. The company had to move a 138,000-volt power pole to make way for the bridge, among other accommodations, but, she said, they couldn't be happier to have the finished trail "right next door to our home."

"It's great to be done with it, but even better to be able to enjoy it," Bergenthal said.