Oasis Nestled In Urban Utah

Small Wetland area is tucked among homes in South Salt Lake

By Michael Vigh

The Salt Lake Tribune, Saturday, November 13, 1999

SOUTH SALT LAKE – Picture a pond where ducks paddle through marsh reeds, fish swim in sparkling water and blue heron build nests in towering trees.

Now imagine a majestic setting where red foxes forage for food and geese happily honk as they cross residential streets.

This picture-postcard refuge is located in a most unlikely place – the middle of a modest-income South Salt Lake neighborhood, minutes from commercial strips, congested streets and crowded apartments.

The serene sanctuary is just a stone’s throw from Granite High School. But because it is tucked between homes, few people know about one of Salt Lake Valley’s few wetland areas, says former Mayor Jim Davis.

“Some people who live just a few streets away don’t even know it’s here,” Davis says. The urban oasis is near 3300 South and 500 East.

Built for flood retention, the pond provides citified anglers a chance to catch trout and other native fish. Beaver build dams and muskrats have been seen poking their small heads from the rocks.

The pond, about the length of a football field and as deep as 8 feet in some places, has increased property values and changed the makeup of a neighborhood that had been shabby, poor and crime-ridden.

“This was once a place where it was about 50 percent renters – now it is 100 percent homeowners.” Davis says. “Residents have really taken ownership of their community.”

And it’s no wonder, since there is no place quite like it in the Salt Lake Valley. Davis says homes surrounding the pond were valued at approximately $160.000 – in a setting usually reserved for the most pricey and exclusive of homes.

It is one of the oddities of this peaceful refuge that it was created by one of the most destructive episodes in Utah history – the floods of 1983 that destroyed or damaged scores of homes through the state, including some in South Salt Lake.

“We knew we needed to do something to help these people and improve this area,” Davis says. “And we did that.”

The City bought the land and sold it to Ivory Homes, which developed the neighborhood and constructed new homes. City officials knocked down the old buildings, Salt Lake County contoured the land and created ponds, and the state Division of Wildlife Resources planted several grasses and other native vegetation.

“This pond was built to mitigate flooding,” says Neil Stack, Salt Lake County flood control director. “Before, residents were forced to deal with flooded basements every year.”

Flood managers built a large flood-retention pond at 3450 South and 800 East at an old fish hatchery in South Salt Lake. Both flood-retention ponds now work in concert with several others along Mill Creek to forestall flooding from rainstorms and spring runoff.

The serendipitous crowning jewel is the little bird sanctuary.

“There is nothing like this.” Says Davis, who has lived in South Salt Lake all his life. “Perhaps not in the entire state.”

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