Monthlong festival encourages Salt Lake County residents to ‘Get To The River’ in September

USA Utah News

The Get To The River Festival will offer events along the Jordan River and at its adjacent parks and trails during September, encouraging residents to visit the riparian and recreation corridor that connects the Utah and Great Salt Lakes.

Festival events include service projects aimed at pulling weeds and cleaning up garbage along the river and parkway trail, as well as guided walks, bike rides and kayak trips, toy boat races and a Beatles tribute concert in Riverton by the Shout Children’s Choir.

“That’s kind of a unique event that you won’t see anywhere else,” said Soren Simonsen, executive director of the Jordan River Commission. “We would love to see, in the future, more musical and artistic kinds of events along the river. This is a cultural corridor, and it knits together lots of parks and cultural amenities.”

A calendar of activities for the annual festival can be found at GetToTheRiver.org, and Simonsen said additional events are likely to be added as details are finalized. Several cities along the river are also planning activities, like a recurring scavenger hunt hosted by Bluffdale City, Salt Lake City’s Riverfest — to be held this year at the Fisher Mansion — and a fishing day sponsored by South Jordan City.

“You can come out and fish for free,” Sorensen said. “You don’t have to have a [fishing] license or anything.”

The Jordan River passes through 16 cities and three counties, with the Jordan River Commission acting as a coordinating body for river projects, like the 40-mile parkway trail that was completed in 2017.

Simonsen said various groups plan to begin a new longterm plan for the river corridor, known as Blueprint Jordan River, in coming weeks. It will take into account progress over the past 10 years, challenges like pollution, recurring algal blooms in Utah Lake and low water levels in the river’s southern sections, and developments like the relocation of the Utah State Prison.

“We want to see what new opportunities exist,” Simonsen said.

Last month, the Salt Lake City Council approved funding for rehabilitation of the Fisher Mansion Carriage House as part of a package of parks and public facility investments. The carriage house, which sits along the river at 200 South, is intended to eventually serve as a nature center, with proposals that include riverside kayak rentals and a corresponding boat ramp.

A new Tracy Aviary facility is currently under construction along the river near 3300 South, with a “soft” opening expected later this year, according to nature center manager Anne Terry.

Terry said the center will include classroom space, a bird feeder yard, and indoor exhibits with information on the river corridor. Visitors also will be able to rent bikes, she said, out of a retrofitted shipping container.

Future additions could include additional classroom and event space, a native plant garden, and animal enclosures, similar to the aviary at Liberty Park.

“It might be a good place for us to help give more homes to those raptors,” Terry said.

Water quality in the Jordan River is a perennial concern, with toxic algae from Utah Lake and stormwater runoff in Salt Lake City and the other municipalities regularly entering the waterway.

Sorensen said the typical contaminants are currently present in the river, but those levels are beneath what would trigger warnings to avoid contact with the water.

“Right now, there’s not a health advisory in this stretch of the river from Point of the Mountain all the way up to Davis County,” Sorensen said. “The algal blooms usually flare up when it’s hotter, so we expect those to decrease.”

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