I recently overheard an environmentalist say that Salt Lake City didn’t need any more parks because we have enough forest and green spaces within a 20 or 30 minute drive from our fair city that more parks weren’t necessary. We really are blessed with a beautiful wild landscape surrounding our valley. On the other hand neighborhood parks do make a lovely place for gatherings, light recreation and relaxation. In the long run, neighborhood parks add a real and intrinsic value to homes. And, if you live in a condo or an apartment building, a park is just a nice place to reconnect with green grass and trees.
The city itself is blessed with three large parks (Liberty, Sugar House and Jordan Park/The International Peace Gardens). and has parts of the 40 mile Jordan River Parkway, along with small and large neighborhood dog parks, tennis courts and ball fields scattered within the street grid.
Liberty Park is not the biggest and oldest public park within our city limits. Sugar House Park (110) acres was created just six years after Brigham arrived here and started as a place to refine sugar beets. The 80 or so acres of Liberty Park were obtained by Brigham Young in 1860. He planted mulberry and cottonwoods trees on what was then called ‘Mill Farm’, but the name changed over the years to Forest Park and Locust Patch. Salt Lake City bought the acreage from Young in 1881 and renamed it Liberty Park. There are remnants and markers from 100 years ago scattered around the pond there-like a mill stone and The Chase Home as well as some of the original trees.
In the early 1900s Liberty Park displayed a cage of monkeys and people started talking about creating a zoo. In 1912 the Parks Department set up a zoo with a whopping $153 and displayed birds, monkeys and squirrels. Within a few years they had over 100 rabbits, an ostrich and many birds housed in “The Happy Family Building.” In 1916 schoolchildren gathered donations of pennies and nickels and helped the city buy an Asian elephant named Princess Alice (after Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice) from a circus. She later had baby pachederms, one being named Prince Utah. Sadly his mother rolled over him and killed him, and local papers reported seeing the mother elephant cry real elephant tears after his death.
In the 1930’s Princess Alice kept escaping out of her caged area in the Park and was seen wandering down 700 East wearing clotheslines full of back yard laundry on her back. Duuuuude, the Drum Circle folks on Sundays would have loved that! Neighbors were scared and outraged by the giant escapee, but the Hogle family came to her rescue and donated land as a new home for all the animals where Hogle Zoo is now located. During the depression volunteers sold flowers to help feed the animals and pay the water bills there.
When you read real estate ads you’ll often see verbiage like ‘close to a park’ or ‘within walking distance of a neighborhood park.’ City parks do add value to all of our lives-from humans to dogs to caged animals and wildlife.