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PARK POLICY ISN’T CHANGING, OFFICIALS SAY

SHARE PARK POLICY ISN’T CHANGING, OFFICIALS SAY

City and county officials are twisting a standard political phrase to answer criticisms raised about Sugarhouse Park: It's not time for change, they say.

The officials responded Thursday to an avalanche of letters and comments from residents critical of a recent purge of the park's governing board. Many residents fear the housecleaning signals drastic changes are in store for the park.That's not the case, according to Salt Lake County commissioners and Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini.

"I have no interest in making any changes in the park," said Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi. "We have changed board membership, not board policies. Our meetings will be more accessible."

The city and county began working on restructuring the park board one year ago, according to Corradini. The entities were concerned that some board members had held their positions for nearly 40 years.

There also were complaints that the park board would not allow public input in the park's management and use.

"The issue of changing the board is totally separate from what's going to happen to the park," Corradini said. "Any reference that we're going to make an amusement park or tear down the garden center is totally false."

Corradini also said she is "totally opposed to the proposed recreation center in the park," although she'd be willing to help residents of the area find a suitable location for a facility.

The Sugar House Park Authority needs to adhere to the same policies as other boards in the city, Corradini said. That includes limiting members to two full terms, a policy generally followed by the county as well, and being responsive to the public.

"There have been many occasions when the public wanted the board to have a hearing or consider something and they just shut down that open process," Corradini said. "That doesn't mean anything in the park changes, but that there is a more open process."

City and county officials also were concerned they lacked oversight for the $330,000 they jointly chip in for the operation and maintenance of Sugarhouse Park.

"It is critical that the two entities which pony up public dollars have a role as watchdogs over spending that money," said Commissioner Brent Overson.

Corradini thinks she has been unfairly singled out for the brunt of criticism for a joint decision made by her, the County Commission and the Salt Lake City Council.

"I'd love to share it (the criticism) with others," Corradini said.

The Salt Lake City Council made the first serious move to alter the board's makeup this spring when it broke the city's portion of funding into two halves. The council decided the board would get $85,000 at the start of the fiscal year and the rest of the money after it appointed a new slate of board members.

Former Park Authority chairman Robert Doidge says he was never informed that the council had attached strings to the park's money. He also said that until the recent turn of events, the city and county never raised concerns about the composition of the park board.

"If they didn't want us to serve, they had the right to turn down our nominations," Doidge said.

Doidge also said the board always conducted its meetings openly and listened to residents' concerns and proposals for the park. It took seriously, however, the charter adopted when the park was created, which states it shall be maintained as an open, green space, Doidge said.

In addition to Doidge, the former board members were Hazel Bullough, Ray D. Free, L.C. Romney and C. Laird Snelgrove.

The City Council recently appointed former City Councilman Ron Whitehead and educator Connie Cannon to fill its two spots on the park board. The county named former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson to the board and asked staff member Brent Cameron to fill the other county slot on an interim basis.

The commission is accepting applications from residents interested in taking over Cameron's seat as a permanent board member.