Editorial by Dave Iltis
Salt Lake City has two incredible parks within the city – Sugarhouse Park and Liberty Park. We propose that for two weekend days each month, alternating every two weeks, each park would be car free. Both currently have approximately 1.25 mile loop roads going through the park that are open to automobile traffic almost every single day of the year. One exception is that the Sugarhouse Criterium takes place without cars on the road for one day a year. Historically, bike races have been held in Sugarhouse Park for decades. The same may be true for running events in each park. Aside from these few days, both parks always have cars on the road.
A car free park would give families, people on bikes, runners, pets, sledders, walkers, and other people who enjoy the park, a chance to experience the park without cars. While each currently has a bike and running path around the each park, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without incursion by automobiles would provide a chance for greater serenity within the city. If each park were car free two days a month, there would be an opportunity to enjoy a car free park one day each week within Salt Lake City.
Some key parks in other cities have done so. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has car free sections of road every Sunday, Monday holidays, and summer Saturdays. People come out in droves to enjoy the roadway without cars.
Central Park in New York City is now car-free capping an effort that appears to have begun in 1991.
This could happen right away with little effort or planning by Salt Lake City. However, some improvements to infrastructure would help the process. Both parks need safe, non-auto ways to get to the park. Better bike lanes to and from each park would help greatly. Each has a couple of good routes currently. Liberty Park can be accessed by the 600 E. neighborhood byway. Sugarhouse Park by the PRATT Trail as well as 1500 E. More access is needed. For Sugarhouse Park, adding bike lanes on 2100 South would help to make it safer to access the park from the north, south, and east. This will take political will from the Mayor, especially to reverse the decision to not put bike lanes on 2100 S between 1700 E and 2300 E. For Liberty Park, hopefully the 9-Line Trail will result in bike lanes on 900 S that will make park access easier, and on 500 E too.
Additionally, there are few bike racks in either park – installing more would provide a safe place to lock up personal transporation while enjoying the parks.
From what we hear, there is a Greenbike station planned for Liberty Park at some point. We have not heard anything regarding a station at Sugarhouse Park. This would help to improve accessibility to the park, and recreation within the park.
Both parks suffer from some huge barriers to pedestrian access in certain places. By Liberty Park, there is no crosswalk between 900 S and 1300 S on 700 E for example. By Sugarhouse Park, the southwest corner is a pedestrian nightmare for those wanting to walk to the park from the neighborhoods south of I-80. Scary crossings of freeway exits and entrances, and a too narrow bridge lurk to make park access difficult.
Both parks are readily accessible by UTA bus.
All of these should be remedied soon, but are not necessary to implement car free parks.
Salt Lake City should start this summer by making Sugarhouse Park and Liberty Park car free for two days a month every other week.