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Flood control and fun ... Utah's Jordan River parkway provides both.

Flood control and fun . . . Utah's Jordan River Parkway provides both

"We've always fought with water in Salt Lake City--either not enough or too much,' says John Malmborg, a ranger on the Jordan River State Parkway. Built to help control flooding and to provide recreation, this downtown parkway withstood tough challenges the past two springs, when heavy snowmelt caused the six major streams feeding the river to rise 10 to 100 percent above flood stage.

In summer, the 6-mile-long greenbelt is a place to play, jog, bike, enjoy a lazy canoe trip, or ride a manmade wave. It took nearly a decade to plan; thanks to vigorous citizen involvement, it's continuing to develop. New portions opened just this summer, and this month you can join some special events.

How the parkway was born

Flooding was just one problem with the river. Like many urban waterways, the Jordan was abused as an industry dump and city sewer outlet. According to the state natural resources report of 1977, "What could be Utah's greatest asset has become its greatest liability, an open sewer unfit for aquatic life and recreation.'

In 1971, work began on improving water quality, and in 1973 the parkway concept was introduced, to provide a bermed and sloped greenbelt that could accept up to a 100-year-level flood. Some $15 million in local, state, and federal funds has been spent to buy and develop the riverfront. When state and federal funding ended in 1980, the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Foundation was set up. Since then, private funds and energies have financed and sometimes built parkway elements. For example, model airplane fliers raised $10,000 for their own "airport'; bicycle moto-cross riders helped fund, design, and grade a new track in Rose Park.

"Our goal is to renovate and add parks along 130 miles of both the Jordan and Provo rivers, and we're progressing steadily,' says foundation board chairman William Smart.

How's the Jordan effort working? "This spring the waters were high--up to the bridges--but they didn't come close to overflowing the berms,' reports Malmborg. And thanks to upgrading of an upstream sewage treatment plant, waters are now significantly cleaner, though not yet acceptable for swimming or fishing.

Seven parks: jog, canoe, "surf'

Perhaps the best way to get a look at the whole parkway is by canoe; the river is fairly wide, flat, and slow-moving, so you needn't be an expert. To see it all with a few stops along the way takes 3 to 4 hours, if you paddle from Glendale Park (1700 S. 12th Street W.) to the last dock in Rose Park. Along the way, you can pause at several small docks. Canoes rent for $6 for a 3-hour trip, $15 all day. They're available in Glendale at 1:30 and 5:30 weekdays; 9, 1:30, and 5 weekends. In summer, it's wise to reserve at least a week ahead; call (801) 533-4527.

The 15-acre Glendale Park has a small bicycle moto-cross track and a 1 1/4-mile fitness course. Raging Waters, also in Glendale, is a water-slide and wave-pool complex, open 10 to 10 daily; admission is $7.95, $6.95 for children 4 to 7.

In Jordan Park, you'll find tennis courts and picnic tables. Here too is the lovely city park called the International Peace Gardens, a small arboretum planted with the flora of 20 different nations. A 5-acre park at Eighth South Street offers wide lawns and picnic tables.

A small park near the state fairgrounds will open soon with paddle-boat rentals and other concessions. A 3-mile equestrian trail begins here (no rental stables) and a 1 1/2-mile paved jogging-bike trail. To get to the trails, drive to the fairgrounds on N. Temple Street near Ninth West Street.

Just north is a new nine-station wheel course, a fitness course for those in wheelchairs.

North of Riverside Park, you can play an 18-hole disk golf course for $1.50. A disk golf tournament will be held on August 6; registration begins at 5 P.M.

In Rose Park, youngsters can challenge the new bicycle moto-cross course; races for children are held almost every Saturday. Nearby, the new model plane airport is due to open this month; you're likely to see small-scale jets, biplanes, and other aircraft buzzing around.

At 1:30 on Saturday, August 11, a ranger will lead an interpretive canoe trip from Glendale Park to the disk golf course. And at 6 P.M. on Thursday, August 23, you can join a nature walk along the river, starting from the parkway office at 1200 N. Redwood Road in Rose Park.

Photo: Landlocked Utahans get a taste of surf in Raging Waters, a wave park on Jordan River greenbelt in Salt Lake City

Photo: Snaking through downtown Salt Lake City, a 6-mile stretch of the Jordan River is now dotted with canoe docks and edged by parks. Gray area shows bermed banks, plains intended to contain floods

Photo: Japanese garden is one of 20 in Peace Gardens, designed by ethnic groups to commemorate peace after World War II

Photo: You can paddle a kayak or canoe down the placid Jordan River. Bring your own, or reserve a rental canoe at Glendale Park

Photo: Tossing disk into chain and wire basket is tricky; beginners get a handicap

Photo: Horse trail crosses river at fairgrounds; equestrian and paved jogging-bike trails are separate
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Date:Aug 1, 1984
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