LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley Monday dedicated two parks in downtown Salt Lake City as places of peace and contemplation.
In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley said the paired parks would be reminders of the pioneer heritage of the state and places where modern residents could seek refuge and refreshment of the mind.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the Brigham Young Historic Park on the south side of Second Avenue at State Street, while the city built the City Creek Park on the avenue's north side.
President Hinckley, who lives in an apartment overlooking the Brigham Young Historic Park, said he served as a "sidewalk superintendent" of the project.
"What has happened is a thing of beauty that will bless the lives of people for years to come," he said.
President Hinckley joined Mayor Deedee Corradini in cutting bright yellow ribbons at the entrances of each park as hundreds of people watched. President Hinckley's wife, Marjorie, accompanied him to the ceremony.
Other church leaders who attended the dedication were President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Presiding Bishop Merrill J. Bateman.
The church announced in June that it would build the Brigham Young Historic Park, replacing a parking lot. The 1.7-acre park sits on land that was once part of Brigham Young's farm and honors the vision of the church's second president and the pioneers he led to the valley.
At President Young's direction, pioneers built a sawmill and flour mill near the mouth of City Creek Canyon. The mills were powered by water flowing through a water wheel.
The new park includes a replica of that water wheel at its east end. Like the original, the wheel is turned by City Creek and then spills over a rock wall into pools. The creek also waters a small garden in the park before going underground again and heading west under State Street.
The Brigham Young Historic Park also will include four statues to represent the pioneers: children playing, quarry workers, men working on a flume and pioneers irrigating a garden.
The park includes a restored section of a stone wall that once encircled President Young's private property.
The LDS Church paved the way for the twin parks this spring when it agreed to pay the city $2.3 million and give it the parking lot on the north side of Second Avenue for its park.
In return, the city gave the church 84,000 square feet under the intersection of Main and South Temple. The church wants to use the space for an underground parking lot. The city also gave the church a section of Richards Street, which runs under Crossroads Plaza.
The city used the money to bring City Creek above ground from Memory Grove, winding down City Creek Canyon Road and then through the two parks.It also used the money to build City Creek Park, a 1.7-acre oasis of grass, trees, walkways, bridges, waterfalls and a stream. City Creek Park is on land that once was part of President Young's back yard.
City Councilman Sam Souvall and Corradini also spoke during the service.
Corradini said she was "thrilled" when church leaders agreed several years ago to make the parks a reality.
"Water in the West is often something that divides people," Corradini said. "Here we have water bringing people together."
Corradini said she spent part of Sunday wandering through the parks, listening to people "oohh" and "aahh." She also came upon a man seated on one of the many benches who told her he was meditating.
"He said he lost his wife six weeks ago and was in a lot of pain," Corradini said. "He showed me her picture, and he said that to sit here and meditate about his wife was soothing and comforting."
Corradini said that's what the city and church hoped to create: a refuge from hectic modern life in the midst of downtown.