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Artists, architects and planners reenvision the Jordan River Parkway

SOUTH SALT LAKE — As it runs north from its headwaters at Utah Lake to where it empties in the Great Salt Lake, some see the Jordan River as a risk in the community rather than an asset.

Now, Salt Lake County officials hope to change that.

"It's a topic that I've heard my entire life," said Michael Budge, who joined a multidisciplinary team committed to reimagining what the river's parkway could look like.

"It's been run down, it has this stereotype of being unsafe," he said, noting that homes along the river's edge tend to face away from the water rather than embrace its potential.

Budge and his team submitted their project to a contest challenging participants to come up with creative ways of reenvisioning a 3 ½ mile mid-valley stretch of the Jordan River Parkway.

According to county officials, the contest was not an actual bidding competition, but rather a way to brainstorm ideas and receive feedback from the community.

"We asked landscape artists, urban planners, artists, engineers and designers to submit their most creative ideas," said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who served on the competition's 11-member jury of experts and elected officials.

"Every entry reinforced what we know we must do to reimagine this regional amenity," she said, noting that the push for new ideas came from a need to "invest in the future and make (the Jordan River Parkway) even more of a regional amenity."

Budge's teammate, Kevin Blalock said "the over arching idea" for their team's project, Weave, "is this very dramatic intervention to try to bring communities together."

Blalock said Weave proposed a way to "bridge the divide that the Jordan River created between the various cities, by introducing a pedestrian path that kind of weaves its way back and forth across the river."

The contest, launched in March, received 15 entries before its May 30 deadline. In addition to the $20,000 prize, five $2,500 prizes were awarded.

Weave took home the grand prize, as well as prizes for the Economic Prosperity and Connectivity awards.

A prize for the Activation Award went to Live + Work + Recreate, a project that proposed— among other initiatives—a TRAX line intersect at Central Point Station.

The winner of the Recreation Award, the Reimagine River’s Edge team, proposed ideas including a kayak and yoga park.

Jordan Rising, a project from entrants in Seattle, pitched a hot air balloon to float over the area. The project won the Conservation Award, as well as a $4,000 People's Choice Award which, Wilson noted, received a total of 1,398 votes from Utah residents.

Wilson said that while some of the ideas proposed by various projects were "visionary" and "over the top," others would be easier to implement in the near future.

She said the next step will be to review the submissions and "see if there are elements to their overall design that we want to roll with on a short-term basis, and some that may be worthy of exploring over multiple years."