Pioneer Park Revitalization: Salt Lake City, Utah

City Parks Forum Case Study


Pioneer Park signSince 1991, the Farmer's Market in Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park has offered city residents an opportunity to enjoy the Salt Lake Valley's abundance. However, the market is also a symbol of the respite afforded to all since the first Mormon settlers arrived in 1847. From the early followers of Brigham Young to homeless residents today, Pioneer Park has refreshed and rejuvenated.

The people of Salt Lake City have strong feelings about Pioneer Park. Long after the growth of Salt Lake City had spread far beyond the original adobe fort built at the park's site for the earliest emigrants, passions about the significance of this 10-acre square in Utah's capital and largest city run deep. Some want to expand the Farmer's Market so that it covers the entire park on weekends, not just the north end. Some want more space allocated to independent artisans and craftsmen to share their creativity with consumers. Others pine over the wealth of archaeological treasures presumed buried beneath the grass and trees. Still others advocate the park as a continuing habitat for the many homeless in the city who have no place else to call their own.

Pioneer Park todayThrough all the voices that clamored to be heard, Mayor Rocky Anderson's pitch for Pioneer Park has risen above. He is a true believer in the park's power to draw people toward the site as it has done throughout Salt Lake City's history. With support from the American Planning Association's City Parks Forum, Mayor Anderson has championed the development of a grand park revitalization plan that would include a skating rink, water features for non-winter months, bocce courts, a dog run, basketball and volleyball courts, running paths, and numerous additional amenities. The City Parks Forum provided a catalyst grant to kick-start Mayor Anderson's vision of what the park could mean for his constituents, and the result was a collaborative planning process to generate a detailed improvement plan to reinstate Pioneer Park as a city gem.

Phase III site planWhile Mayor Anderson's dream has not yet come to fruition, a considerable amount of money has been gathered to begin implementation of the park's overhaul. The city council approved a $600,000 allocation despite overwhelming competing interests and a growing list of infrastructure improvements. Recently the city council provided an additional $400,000 in capital improvement funds for a total of $1 million to begin the new Pioneer Park. Funded improvements include perimeter pathways, which have proven successful in nearby Liberty Park, corner entry plazas, a dog park, bike racks, and infrastructure improvements. These steps, combined with increasing development interest along the Rio Grande Street corridor and in buildings near the Farmer's Market site, are encouraging a broader mix of patrons, from the homeless to artists to neighborhood residents walking their dogs.

Brigham Young planned a city from the security of the old fort at Pioneer Park nearly 160 years ago. He had dreams of a new community for his followers and their future generations. Mayor Anderson dreams of a future Salt Lake City himself, in which Pioneer Park once again becomes a nerve center for the Valley and its people. The American Planning Association is privileged to bridge nearly two centuries of planning innovation and community fortitude to benefit all Utahans and their progeny.


Val Pope
Parks Division Manager
Department of Public Services
1965 West 500 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(P) 801-972-7800

Images: Top — Pioneer Park sign. American Planning Association. Middle — Pioneer Park today. American Planning Association. Bottom — Phase III site plan. City of Salt Lake City.