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It ascends the slopes of Mount Olympus, meanders along still-wooded sections of Mill Creek, wraps around the rim of Parley's Historic Nature Park and stretches through industrial parks to the Jordan River.
This is Millcreek, an unincorporated suburb in Salt Lake County and home to four distinct communities: Mount Olympus, Canyon Rim, East Millcreek and Millcreek.
Combined, those neighborhoods have about 62,000 people. If it were a city, it would be the county's fifth largest and rank among the state's top 10.
Now, an effort is under way to make Millcreek a city, the county's 17th. Today, The Salt Lake Tribune introduces you to this township through the eyes of the people who lead those four communities.
Mount Olympus: Where homes meet hills
It all began with a tunnel.
The project would have seemed unimaginable anywhere else in Millcreek Township, but it was all too real to Jeff Silvestrini. The tunnel was to plunge into the hillside across the street from his east-bench home, then climb to a scenic 20-acre vista overhead.
But Silvestrini was worried. What would happen when winter set in and the tunnel turned icy?
"I didn't want to have cars driving out of a steep tunnel," he says, "and come sliding across the street into my yard."
So Silvestrini helped stop that tunnel from being built. In doing so, he entered community politics.
That was 17 years ago. Silvestrini, an attorney for Cohne, Rappaport & Segal, has served on the Mount Olympus Community Council ever since, now as chairman.
His battle to keep a tunnel and later a tram out of his upscale neighborhood reflects the distinct character of his community, where suburban homes and steep mountainsides intersect.
It's a picturesque portion of Millcreek that must grapple with questions such as how high is too high for homes. Some houses have slid. Others have been fastened into place with flying buttresses. Silvestrini points with satisfaction to rules that have brought "more sensible" foothill development.
With streets winding up the benches from Wasatch Boulevard along the easternmost belt of Interstate 215, Mount Olympus faces other issues, too.
Such as snow. When the valley gets inches, this affluent east-side suburb gets a foot.
"Snow removal is a more important priority for us," Silvestrini says. "We have to have that done or we can't get out of our neighborhoods. Or we can get out, but we are out of control."
Then there is wildlife. Mount Olympus spoke out against a recent initiative to bring backyard hens to unincorporated areas, because residents feared those chickens would attract rats or coyotes from the surrounding wilds.
Canyon Rim: A place for people and pups
Standing on the snow-crusted rim of Parley's Historic Nature Park, Aimee McConkie and the man who will replace her as head of the Canyon Rim Community Council let the scene speak for itself.
A wooded gully opens with dog walkers and cyclists. Interstate 80 rumbles with traffic. Salt Lake City high-rises appear in the distance.
"We are a real hub," McConkie says. "We are in a pocket of nice neighborhoods with all these amenities and resources literally just minutes away."
And yet, Canyon Rim is defined by something less visible than its proximity to outdoor beauty and city sparkle. You find it in McConkie's home (and in the home of Derrick Sorenson, her successor on the community council).
Canyon Rim has a nucleus of young families, perhaps more so than other neighborhoods in Millcreek Township. McConkie has three daughters under age 10. Sorenson has five younger than 14.
It could have something to do with the housing stock, which is relatively inexpensive compared with other east-side locales. McConkie bought her home for less than $200,000. Homes are small. Lots are roomy.
But, politically, the biggest issue for this Millcreek community is the nature park.
"It could take up every agenda, every time," McConkie muses.
The 88-acre park located in Salt Lake City, but reached through Canyon Rim has become a defining feature with bicycle paths, walking trails, even a tree-shadowed stream.
The question is how to properly manage it. Should dogs be able to roam free? Should teens be able to ride the creek by "shooting the tube"? Should the county or the city police the park?
Other concerns have stirred the community (think "monster homes"), but no other issue has been as long lasting.
Now, Canyon Rim's leadership is changing. McConkie, a trade association manager who joined the council about six years ago, is moving to East Millcreek. Sorenson, a real estate broker, is succeeding her.
He hopes to keep the community family-friendly. That means movies in the park and neighborhoods so walkable that teens can stop by Bob's Brain Freeze for shaved ice.
East Millcreek: A refuge with pioneer roots
A stream gurgles past Nancy Carlson-Gotts' home through a gully so thick with trees that visitors might forget they are in the middle of Utah's most-populous county.
Mill Creek remains a fixture of the community Carlson-Gotts now leads. Generations ago, pioneers built a flour mill downstream from her East Millcreek home.
While Carlson-Gotts' backyard is peaceful, her community hasn't always been.
Less than two years ago, East Millcreek emerged from a divisive debate about "monster homes." Some residents argued for the right to build. Others worried about homes snugging too close to their property lines and spoiling their views.
Carlson-Gotts, a retired clinical team manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, found herself in the middle of the fight, more by timing than by choice, after joining the council in 2006.
"I'm not concerned about the size of the house, if you have the property to build," she says. "But we need to be considerate of our neighbors."
Carlson-Gotts would rather not dwell on that feud now. (The county resolved the dispute with stricter building standards that still allow for flexibility in neighborhoods with larger homes.)
What she prefers to talk about is the new community center rising in East Millcreek. It will combine a library, senior center and recreation outlet into an expansive facility.
Carlson-Gotts also points to her community's historic nature: the stately homes along Evergreen and the Baldwin Radio Factory behind the community center. She mentions the rural atmosphere along Mill Creek. She still sees deer picking at the foliage in her backyard.
Millcreek: The commercial core
For Diane Angus, home sweet home is beside an eight-lane highway.
The chairwoman of the Millcreek Community Council has lived along 700 East her entire life, growing up one door down from the place where she now resides and runs a commercial greenhouse.
Angus wouldn't mind more business in her neighborhood. In fact, that's why she joined the council in the late 1980s. She says homeowners should have the right to convert their properties to commercial.
"How many residential areas do you know that have an eight-lane highway and 40,000 cars driving past every day. Is that residential living?" she asks. "I can't walk across the street and visit my neighbor without taking my life into my hands."
Angus hasn't won that fight yet. But she is working on it.
It's a fitting perspective for a woman who oversees the most heavily commercial community in Millcreek Township. This council area known simply as Millcreek boasts the suburb's largest employer, St. Mark's Hospital.
It also contains a redevelopment area west of State Street that, with the help of a $200,000 federal grant, has begun showing signs of new life. Monet Medical plans to build a facility there that will grow to 60-plus employees. Loveridge Machine Co., Carbon Fiber Composite and Project Data Center are expanding their operations. And the new Meadowbrook Station apartments offer 242 units near a light-rail station.
In fact, Angus sees potential all over her Millcreek council area, where unincorporated neighborhoods of single-family homes, high-density apartments and mobile-home parks stretch to the Jordan River. She pauses beside a soccer field at the Millcreek Activity Center and imagines a much larger community venue there (at 4405 S. 1025 East) with a library, rec center and outdoor play space.
And yet, something worries Angus about Millcreek Township's push for incorporation. State law limits the amount of commercial property that can be taken from an unincorporated area when a city forms, so Angus worries her community could be divided.
"We don't want the community to be fractured," she says. "We have existing borders. We have tried to build this community and make the residents aware of where they live."