This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Parleys Historic Nature Park, a treasure at the mouth of Parleys Canyon, was created in the 1980s after four generous families transferred land to Salt Lake City specifically for a nature park. Bonneville cutthroat trout, our designated state fish, thrived in clear Parleys Creek. Some 110 species of birds and 81 species of plants existed, including the sego lily, the state flower.
Rock walls and a sandstone aqueduct, built in 1850 by early settlers, remained intact. Former Mayor Ted Wilson wanted the city's last natural canyon mouth protected for future generations.
Canyon Rim neighbors donated money and time acquiring the property. In 1986, Gov. Scott Matheson dedicated it as Parleys Historic Nature Park. In the late 1990s, dog owners began overrunning the park, ignoring leash ordinances. The riparian corridor started to die as hundreds of dogs ran into the stream daily. The 2007 City Council, pressured by dog owners, turned this beautiful place into a dog park, rejecting a shared-use compromise. Some said they sacrificed a very special place.
The off-leash use was subject to a management plan and could be terminated at any time.
While dog owners loved their playground, it was being destroyed from overuse. Many violated such park rules as:
1. Bring no more than two dogs per person;
2. Remove dog waste (causing the nomenclature "poop park");
3. Operate no dog-sitter business in this public place (bringing up to eight dogs per person);
4. Keep pets in sight/under voice control (resulting in constant LOST DOG signs in the park and neighborhoods);
5. Keep dogs leashed when entering/leaving the park (neighborhood children are afraid to play in their own yards);
6. Keep dogs away from sensitive environmental areas such as steep hillsides, streams, ponds and historic-sites.
By 2009, stream banks, wetlands and hillsides were severely impaired. Without management and enforcement, current conditions are not the envisioned Nature Park.
The Becker administration, wisely committed to environmental protection, created a stakeholders' committee, including dog owners, to propose a plan. The management plan enforces riparian corridor and water quality ordinances while allowing stream access for dogs at several points deemed environmentally less sensitive. It creates a preserve on the stream's south side where wildlife habitat can be restored. It protects the 160-year-old historic sites and allows leashed dogs, bikers, strollers and wheelchairs on the new Parleys Bike Trail. It proposes 10 off-leash acres, the city's largest dog park. After three years of one use, the park will again be multi-use, a goal for any city park.
The park deserves respect. The original landowners' intent deserves respect. While dog parks can exist in numerous places, nature parks can exist only in special places. This special place must be preserved and protected for future generations.
It's time for the well-organized dog owners to locate -- and perhaps fund -- additional dog parks as stipulated in their city contract. When Canyon Rim needed a children's playground, they located, financed and dedicated Tanner Park for Children. When they wanted a nature preserve, they created and dedicated Parleys Historic Nature Park.
Many dog owners say the city provides children's playgrounds and because they consider their dogs "children," they feel entitled to city funds. However, dogs don't become citizens, civic leaders and taxpayers.
Let's support the city's management plan so everyone again feels welcome in this beautiful multi-use park. Important ecology hopefully can be restored so the area is worthy of the intent of city leaders since 1976 and of landowners who transferred their land for a nature park.
Sometimes one must forego popularity in order to do what is right: protect the environment for future generations.
The park will be enjoyed by bikers, birders, scouts, students, historians, dog walkers, families with small children, senior citizens, the physically challenged, and people seeking solitude and peace. This win-win plan protects nature and history, lets dogs run free in their areas and enables pursuit of other activities.
is founder of Utah Environmental Congress;
is biology professor emeritus at Westminster College;
Nancy von Allmen
is a member of the Canyon Rim Citizens Association. Additional signatories:
, a member of Sugarhouse Community Council;
, member, Great Salt Lake Audubon;
, one of four original land owners;
, executive director, Utah Environmental Congress;
Ronald Van Leuven
, executive manager, Sons of the Utah Pioneers.