The McClelland Trail


Happy holiday, happy summer. I’m so glad I’m not living in California where it hasn’t rained in such a long time. History has proven that water is scarce, and valuable, and now with global warming it’s going to be even a more precious commodity. The Daily Beast calls water ‘the new oil’ and the growing stories of corporations buying up water rights around the world are astounding. That favorite candy bar maker of yours (Nestle) is one of the biggest culprits of water hoarding and have stated that water is NOT a fundamental human right.

There’s a brass plaque on the plaza at 300 South and State Street by the theaters “Commemorating the Beginning in America of Modern Irrigation that states “In this vicinity on July 23 and 24, 1847” Mormons made irrigation ditches and diverted the water from City Creek to water their crops. The words are a bit inaccurate because natives had used irrigation systems here and certainly other settlers round the country had coursed water to their benefit. If you Google a map of the Jordan River as it wanders to the Great Salt Lake and pull back a bit on the map, you can see man-made lines leading to the Jordan River. These mostly straight lines are old hand dug ditches from farmers and land owners of long ago. As the new city of salt expanded, canals and irrigation ditches spread like spider webs in the valley to moisten the hungry crops.

Turn the clock forward a century and you would be hard pressed to find one of these water ways. Most of them have been plowed over out of disuse while others have been diverted through giant concrete water pipes under county and city streets. Active canals are worth a lot of money and there are locals who trade water shares for big bucks. Now Salt Lake City has announced that one of the buried canals that wanders from the Brickyard to 800 South is going to become noticeable again after 132 years. Thanks to a push by City Council person Erin Mendenhall, a group of local citizens, plus $1 million from City coffers, an improved walking and biking trail is going to create a very wide path over a weedy forgotten lane between 1000 and 1200 east. The water will still run under it from the Jordan Narrows to City Creek, where it then meets that waterway at Eagle Gate and turns to the Jordan River. There is also a master plan from Salt Lake City to ‘daylight’ City Creek itself and let the waters flow at the surface again. A green watery path would run from downtown, past the Red Iguana 2, parallel the rail road tracks and then to the Jordan River again. It could potentially even be stocked with local trout and be a fresh water source again for birds and wildlife.

Years ago I sold a home that bordered the McClelland canal. The new homeowner was delighted to have a wild space next door to her. She planted vines and veggies and felt like the unused space was an expansion of her own yard. Indeed, many homeowners along the trail have encroached upon the dirt that doesn’t belong to them. The City will come through and measure and decide what is what. But homeowners along this new bike and pedestrian route should rejoice because their property values may have just gone up with a great amenity on their property lines.

Destination North Temple?


I always wondered when we hosted the 2002 Olympics why Mayor Rocky Anderson and Governor Mike Leavitt didn’t find the money and the priority to cleanup and beautify the ‘Gateway to the Capitol City’ from the airport to North Temple. At the time it was a street with dive motels, fast food and many unkempt properties that basically just made this thoroughfare into Salt Lake City look just plain crappy to our worldwide visitors. Wingpointe Golf course had been open at the airport since 1990 but was of no use for competitions in the sub-zero weather inversion we had during the games. The airport had been spiffed up and TSA secured, as the 9/11 attacks had happened in the U.S. only four months before the Olympic torch was lit in Utah. We didn’t have much snow then and I felt like we were greeting the world wearing flood pants, rope belts and sporting a few missing teeth and it was as if we had bathed but forgot to wash our feet.

Much has happened since then to our fair city, and actually to the entire tri-city area of Ogden, Salt Lake and Provo. TRAX which had opened for the games has expanded to and from the airport and along the valley floors. Artsy little metro stations dot the tracks at major TRAX intersections, a giant 18-field soccer complex voted in by Salt Laker’s in 2003 on 1900 West and 2200 North will be finished next year and now the City and local groups are pondering what to do to finally make North Temple look better and act better. Ponder this: could North Temple ever be a destination point for you other than the occasional stop at the original Red Iguana? This is a necessary discussion because the airport itself is now about to methodically go under the bulldozers between now and 2022. In just 8 years the two terminals will become one, the number of gates will be reduced all (but all will be replaced with ‘Jetways’ (covered walks) to and from planes), with massive shopping, dining and meeting spaces added on both sides of security. There are 20 million passengers currently coming into our 50 year old airport which was designed to handle only 10 million visitors.

Sadly, Wingpointe is not a money maker. The $5 rent the Feds were once charging us for the land has been increased and the lease to Salt Lake City is up in 2017. If I were to look in my crystal ball I’d say that golf at Wingpointe will not be around in a few years and it will become more of a green space and animal habitat than underused links. On the happy side, when you build light rail in cities around the world development usually follows. Planners from Salt Lake City know this and have fast-tracked ideas and zoning proposals to help developers bring in more mixed land uses between the airport and downtown. Non-profit NeighborWorks is interested in getting affordable housing along the North Temple corridor and interviewing community members about their ideas for the area. The transitory daily rentals of hotels does not for a neighborhood make and yet many people consider the area along both sides of North Temple a swell place to call home. The streets around the decrepit State Fairgrounds in the Fairpark neighborhood are wide and the homes affordable. The Euclid neighborhood is a mix of small businesses and historic old homes. People are working to get a better sense of place now between the east and the west of the airport and downtown as well as to the north and south – finally!