Small Steps

If you travel to NYC and happen by Central Park, you’ll most likely see the park’s horse carriages for hire. They generally seat four humans and cost about $150 for a 45 minute tour of the lower end of the park. Salt Lake City used to have carriage rides but in August of 2013 a carriage horse by the name of Jerry collapsed and died from heat stroke downtown. It was captured on video and went viral, and 15 months later the City Council unanimously outlawed horse drawn carriages in the capitol city.  If you’re walking or driving around the downtown/Avenues area and periodically see a large sandstone block in front of a home, generally very close to the curb, you’ve stumbled onto a wee bit of history here. I drive by these blocks of stone all the time-there are five I know of just on South Temple alone at 529 E, 731 E, 808 E, 1135 E and one at 1167 E with the name ‘Lynch’ carved into it, which was probably the name of the original home owners that lived there.  Back in the day before cars, there were wagons, carriages, and horses to get you from here to there. Many standing homes in Salt Lake, especially in the Marmalade, Avenues, University, Harvard/Yale and Sugar House areas still have carriage houses and even small barns where the ‘transportation’ was kept at night. Nowadays these structures are either small garages or have been converted to studios or ADU’s.

Sandstone carriage steps in Salt Lake City were essential in the city’s early days. In the mid-19th century, when Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley, they brought with them their knowledge of construction and architectural traditions. The use of sandstone for use in foundations for homes and businesses, which is abundant in the surrounding Wasatch Mountains, became prevalent due to its durability as rock and its availability nearby in Red Butte Canyon. The point of the big square rock by the curb was to allow humans to be able to get up onto a horse or vehicle without using a ladder. They served as both a practical and decorative element in front of homes and public buildings, and were a symbol of social status. The steps were sometimes meticulously carved and crafted by skilled stonemasons, adding an element of elegance to the streetscape. They are generally about 1’ tall, 2’ wide and 2’ long.

Are they protected? Michaela Oktay, SLC Planner says “,The Historic Overlay would protect any carriage steps from being removed if they were on a landmark site or a within a local historic district. I have never had someone actually want to remove them to my knowledge. Generally, they are in the right of way, the city owns that land and would also have to approve removal if they were alerted to the removal.”


Growing Pains

We love our cars, don’t we? As our state grows, so does our need to address traffic around the state. Six groups, including the Cache Metro Planning Org. (CMPO), Dixie Metro Planning Org. (Dixie MPO), Mountainland Assoc. of Governments (MAG), Utah Dept. of Transportation (UDOT), Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) are sponsoring a state survey to find out what you think about how, when, where and why you travel in and around the state in order to help plan for future transportation improvements.

You may have heard that UDOT is considering turning the Bangerter Highway into a full blown freeway? Currently there are four new freeway-style interchanges and off-ramps planned for 2700 West, 13400 South, 9800 South and 4700 South which will eliminate stoplights at four more intersections for drivers on the current highway. This is needed as @60,000 drivers use the road everyday but double that is expected by 2040 as growth along the southwest corner of the valley continues to explode with commercial and residential growth.

UTA is going to be adding double track and electrification of FrontRunner commuter rail lines to increase service times, and I-15 may build more lanes from Farmington’s Shepard Lane to Salt Lake City’s 400 South. The public transportation agency has a few options they’ve been presenting to the public. Option A would include five general purpose lanes, an express lane and auxiliary lane in each direction with express lanes being reversed during commutes. Option B proposes reversible express lanes in the middle. Residents along the I-15 corridor could lose homes and businesses in the Guadalupe, Fairpark, Rose Park, Poplar Grove and Woods Cross areas with potential expansion plans on the west side of the freeway. This opens up a huge debate between homeowners and the government, because if it’s decided there will be expansion and home and business owners don’t want to sell, they could lose their property in a public ‘taking’ of their properties which is supposed to give fair market value for those properties if the plans go forward.

Seems like a long time ago when I-15 first began construction. In 1926 when the numbered system of U.S. highways was created, it was known as US 91.  Back in 1957 I-15 started as an interstate highway with a segment between Los Angeles and Las Vegas open to traffic in 1966. Construction continued through the 1970’s and the final part of the freeway opening in 1990. In the 1960’s the north-south section was built in Davis County that eventually led to Layton as a new commercial hub and made a huge difference in growth in Centerville, Farmington and Kaysville.

As we grow we need better transportation options. The six groups sponsoring the survey are asking random folks to participate in a statewide survey about how, where and when we travel each day and gives each participating adult a $25 gift card to report their travel for a seven day period.

Catch Cans

Wasatch mountain ski resorts had more snowfall than any other recorded year in history. Utah isn’t unique, the Sierras and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains got hammered too.  Happily this translates into the end of the multi-year drought that’s been plaquing the West for several years, as lakes and reservoirs fill and rivers are running high-with several feeding into the Great Salt Lake. Now sail boats are back on our salty sea and rocks are getting covered up at Lake Powell. We can cross our fingers this is a trend for wet and not for dry!  The local news educated us this past year when the Great Salt Lake got to its lowest point on record that most of the water use in Utah is for agriculture. Did you know our clover hay is considered almost equal to gold bullion overseas? Pricey feed!

We cannot relax our water use ever again in this state. Global warming is real and now we know that if the lake goes, we all will probably vanish, either by death of toxic air or by moving the hell out of Utah.  So now we’re officially in summer and some people are sprinkling their lawns and landscaping helter skelter, wasting water every damn day. Utah Water Savers wants you to get paid to replace your grass with water-efficient landscaping knowing that the future of wet years may not be real. You can earn a cash incentive when you upgrade your thirsty lawns to water-wise plants, trees and shrubs. You could increase your curb appeal, decrease maintenance requirements and reduce water use and your water bill. These incentives are not just for residences but commercial, industrial and institutional properties as well that currently having living grass. If you are connected to a municipal water system and you’re not in arrears with your water bill, you can qualify if you do the prescribed landscape upgrades within 12 months from getting approved for the program. There are a few rules to qualify: 1) plant-coverage minimums and grass-covered maxims; 2) grass is prohibited on park strips, slopes, and in areas less than 8-feet wide. You can get $.50-$3.00 per square foot depending on where your water comes from (i.e. Weber Basin, Central Utah, Jordan Valley, etc.).

One of the best things you can do right now is a sprinkler performance test. You can get ‘catch cans’ from the USU Extension County Offices or use a can to collect sprinkler water to measure the depth of water in say, one hour of watering. In SL County it’s 0.5 inches for turfgrass. Right now you should be watering every three days, until September when it’s every six days. If you want to get paid to paid to replace your grass, contact The project minimum to qualify may vary depending on your water district, and you must be pre-approved for the program. The website gives you info to perform your own site inspection on water use.