SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is asking the public what improvements they want to see to the 10-acre Pioneer Park, the only park downtown.
A survey released Friday asks various questions about park usage, needs for the space, and wants for the future.
Problems plagued Pioneer Park in the past, as the community space became known for drugs and crime. Earlier this month, a stabbing in broad daylight led police to shoot and kill a man in the park.
"It was kind of the place you didn't really want to go. Kind of dark, gloomy," said Aaron Royce, who lives near the park.
Nancy Monteith, Senior Landscape Architect in the engineering division at Salt Lake City, explained that the city has consistently invested in the park, leading to dramatic improvements over the last 10 years.
In 2019, the city spent about one million dollars to install lighting, plant trees, construct an inner park pathway, and create a multi-use field.
On Friday evening, people took full advantage of those nearly two-year-old improvements.
Royce and Ryan Rivera let their dogs play on the grass, as a team practiced in the sports field behind them. Families strolled along the inner walkway.
Earlene, who lives in Salt Lake City, hung out on the grass with a few others.
She knew what Pioneer Park was like before.
"I feel like it has improved," she said. "It's improved a lot since back in 2013."
Rivera shared the same sentiments.
"Even two years ago, it's gone like leaps and bounds," he said.
Monteith explained that Pioneer Park is the only downtown Salt Lake City park. With housing and multi-story building developments under construction just across the street and within an easy few-block walk, she said the park is continuing to grow and increase in value.
She said the city was awarded a little over three million dollars to invest in the park. Hence the survey, asking the public what improvements they'd like to see.
One of the first questions asks how satisfied you are with Pioneer Park currently.
"I would say satisfied," Royce said. Rivera echoed, "I'm pretty satisfied with it."
A couple of questions down, it asks: What would make the park better? The survey lists several options to choose from.
"I feel like it needs to be more activities and more productive for the homeless," Earlene said.
"A lot of more natural elements would be nice," Rivera said. "Maybe something with a water feature would be nice."
"Seating areas, I think. Just benches, things like that," Royce answered.
The survey lays out pictures and potential design concepts for people to look over, and choose their favorites.
Anna Laybourn, Principal and Planner with Design Workshop — the planning firm that selected the plan and design of Pioneer Park — said there are three different design concepts that explore the arrangement of the park.
In order to come up with a park design, she said they want to understand how people could potentially use Pioneer Park. They want to know how people imagine and dream the park could be.
This could be anything from fountains to splash pads, to improving the sports courts and dog park.
She called it the "early stage of dreaming." What people answer will help inform their design of the park.
"We’ll create some sort of hybrid or bring together the best ideas — the ideas that were most popular — from what people said they liked about the park today, and what they want to see enhanced," Laybourn explained.
Royce and Rivera, who both own active, energetic pups, said they'd love to see improvements to make the park more dog-friendly. Royce said he can't bring his dog into the dog area because the bark creates problems on his dog's sensitive skin. Rivera said he's dealt with trash and a few incidents within the fenced-off dog area, so he and his dog stay outside of it.
"A redesign would be great," Royce said. "I would love it if there was more dog activities... something water-oriented would be great."
"I think an agility course would be great. Dog splash pad would be nice for me," Rivera said.
Earlene's attention focused on the trash she sees around the park, and wanting that cleaned up. She also expressed hope that helping those experiencing homelessness who often stay at the park would be thought about in the plan as well.
"Just for the homeless in general, it needs to be more resources, more compassion," she said.
Design Workshop will be taking all the feedback they can get, including in person at a field day and movie night co-hosted by the Utah Film Center at Pioneer Park on Saturday, July 26. The event will mimic the kinds of community events the city could host at Pioneer Park in the future, Monteith indicated.
Lawn games will kick off at 6, with the chance for the public to browse information tables with boards. At 8:30 pm, everyone will sit down for the movie "Bend It Like Beckham," and Design Workshop will host a live questionnaire to get real-time feedback just before that.
Monteith said they are thrilled to invest more in Pioneer Park.
"It is a gem. It’s our only green space and it's ten acres," she said. "So, we have a lot of opportunity here."