Bill to Protect Jordan Advances

Legislation creating the Jordan River Recreation Area in central Salt Lake County was unanimously advanced Tuesday by the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee.

Under HB 216 – Jordan River Recreation Area, which is sponsored by Representative Mike Winder (Republican – West Valley City), focuses on the strip of land the Jordan occupies from SR-201 to 4430 South with Murray City being excluded at the request of local officials.

The bill’s price tag is $1 million, with $500,000 in one-time funding and $500,000 in ongoing funds. The money will be disbursed by the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, with the collaboration of the Jordan River Commission. Funds would be used for infrastructure improvements and to increase the law enforcement presence along the entire 40-mile trail, which passes through Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah counties.

In recent years, the Jordan River Trail has become an active location for homeless encampments and various crimes. This has intensified since the start of Operation Rio Grande. Winder said HB 216 is designed to help improve the situation along the trail and prepare the area for a 300-bed homeless resource center that is slated to be in the middle of the targeted area. Located at 3380 S. 1000 W. in South Salt Lake, the center is expected to open in June 2019.

“It’s not only the safety of the public that’s at risk, but the safety of those who for complex but legitimate reasons will seek shelter and services at the new homeless resource center. The victimization of the least among us, which for many years has happened in broad daylight in the downtown area, could be exacerbated with the cover of the Jordan River that the vegetation might provide.,” said Soren Simonsen, executive director of the Jordan River Commission. “We believe it’s imperative that this new center be accompanied by both the patrolling and law enforcement that’s contemplated in this bill, as well as the proactive capital improvements.”

“The Jordan River really is a special place. It’s a gem in this valley,” said Brian Cottam, Utah State Forester and division director of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “This is an outstanding place. It has its challenges; with the location of the new homeless shelter, there will be some additional challenges. The bill that you have in front of us is not only going to help us an agency, but all the members of the commission prioritize this river, make some better decisions, invest in it, and really make it the place that it is and even more-so can be.”

Jon Cox, vice president of government affairs at Rocky Mountain Power, said RMP owns property along to the trail and they have noticed an uptick in the transient population there. “We’re very, very supportive of Representative Winder’s efforts to try to make some more permanent fixes to make this a desirable area for residents to visit and recreate on.”

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