Six months into Operation Rio Grande, aggregate crime in Salt Lake City decreased 25%, the lowest point for the city since 2013. Every SLC neighborhood examined in our analysis saw its aggregate crime rates diminish or continue falling after Operation Rio Grande, with one exception. In Liberty-Wells, crime rates roughly plateaued or had a slight upward trend—though still below the 2016 peak.
We have examples to follow as we re-envision Pioneer Park as a true public gathering place where everyone feels welcome.
On any given day, visitors and residents of New York City can visit the Bryant Park website and be overwhelmed with the sheer amount and variety of activities going on in the park that day (and night).
A New Vision for Pioneer Park: family-friendly and inviting to all 24/7
As I sit down to write this blog post, for example, I could hit up Joe Coffee Company for my morning brew or select from a number of other food kiosks. I could take my kids down at 11 a.m. for Bryant Park Games where we can play board games as a family. After our epic Monopoly match we can head over to the ice skating rink for opening day at noon, grabbing a bite to eat at Breads Bakery on the way. After skating, we can have a battle for the ages at the Ping Pong tournament or visit the Art Cart to utilize the free drawing and craft supplies and take advantage of free art instruction.
I could go on. But this just gives you a taste of a vision. The vision we have for our own Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City.
Bryant Park in New York City isn’t the first to embrace the concept of a publicly owned yet privately run park. And they certainly won’t be the last. But what they do have is a history. Looking at Bryant Park 20 years ago, you would have found a haven for drug dealers and a public bathroom for the homeless. The fountains long dried up and covered in graffiti. If you have visited SLC’s Pioneer Park in the last decade, this may sound familiar.
So what changed? How did Bryant Park go from being a seedy NYC armpit to New York City’s beloved Town Square? It started with a vision. A public-private partnership between elected officials, NYC Parks and Recreation, and local businesses. It started with a commitment; and a group of people saying “This is OUR neighborhood. Let’s take it back.”
This is how we know it can be done. Other examples include Millennium Park in Chicago and Civic Center Park in our neighboring Denver. These cities faced many of the same challenges we now face and they figured it out. They united as a city and rose above it, creating beautiful, thriving parks that are cultural activity centers.
Pioneer Park is uniquely located and positioned to be just as successful as these examples. And we are well on our way. A small taste of the large scale dream we have in mind include the Downtown Farmer’s Market and Twilight Concert Series, both which have found a home in the park and are run by private entities.
Are you ready to join us? Maybe someday soon you can wake up on a Saturday morning and visit the Pioneer Park website to plan out the day with YOUR family.
Contact us to get involved. We would love to have you be a part of the vision!
Operation Rio Grande Phase One has been extremely successful in arresting dangerous criminals and disrupting the drug trafficking and usage in the area. In the first two months, 37 treatment beds became available and were all filled with individuals that were arrested as a result of Operation Rio Grande. Those experiencing homelessness have expressed appreciation for how they now feel safe and are accessing services and programs to change their lives.
The Pioneer Park Coalition spent over a year advocating and collaborating with public officials towards an unprecedented operation with commitment and integration on the city, state, county, and private level, with bipartisanship and cooperation. On Monday, August 14th, Phase One of this 2+ year operation went into effect.
The Salt Lake City Council earmarked $200,000 to purchase transportable toilets to relieve the issue of human waste in the park and on the property of local businesses. The council also approved another $380,000 to hire additional social workers and police officers and pay police overtime to address an unprecedented level of violence and crime in the Pioneer Park area.
After one year of close involvement in Salt Lake County Collective Impact on Homelessness and the Mayor’s Commission on Homeless Site Evaluation, the Pioneer Park Coalition joined a group of stakeholders in proposing Salt Lake County’s HOMES Initiative, asking for $27 million from the state legislature as part of a coordinated request representing all interests to help achieve a common goal to minimize homelessness in Utah.
The Pioneer Park Coalition hosted the first televised debate for the 2015 Salt Lake City mayoral race at KSL 5 TV Studios. This questions the coalition provided and all five candidates responses raised light on the complexities of addressing homelessness such as improving mental health services, protecting women and children, and dispersing facilities to reduce the burden of any one neighborhood.
During the 2015 legislative season, The Pioneer Park Coalition successfully requested $1 million of the Governor’s budget for permanent supportive housing efforts, which was allocated to the Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund. As PPC continued its advocacy efforts to address homelessness, Salt Lake County formed a Collective Impact on Homelessness Steering Committee and invited the Pioneer Park Coalition to participate, giving them four chairs on the committee.
The Pioneer Park Coalition convened a design charrette focused on physical improvements to the Park and neighborhood, to support and address in part many complex community issues of the district. This effort was done close coordination with Salt Lake City, to update and help bring to fruition concepts outlined in Salt Lake City’s 2006 Pioneer Park Master Plan.
The Pioneer Park Coalition worked with the Salt Lake Police department to fundraise and acquire new security technology for Pioneer Park. Earlier in the month, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office released The Homeless Services 6 Point Strategy to End Homelessness, which included the Pioneer Park Coalition as a primary community partner in the plan and listed renewal of Pioneer Park as the 6th strategy.
The Pioneer Park Coalition formed as a nonprofit with a mission to make Pioneer Park a safe and inviting place for the community. The coalition recognized that improving the park couldn’t happen without first understanding and addressing systemic challenges the Rio Grande neighborhood had been experiencing for decades.