Afton Holzer, a long-time cyclist and daily user of the trail, talked about her experiences with the sections that are open now.
“I go on that trail every day. It’s awesome. I work right by it. I walk on it every day with my coworkers at lunch and then sometimes I run it. It’s really nice because it’s not all uphill or all downhill. It’s a good variety, so I think it’s especially fun for biking because there’s good stretches of it that are all downhill.”
She does have one critique, however.
“Some of it is right by the [I-80] freeway, so if you’re walking with other people, it’s sometimes hard to have a conversation because you’re right by the traffic and it’s kind of loud,” Afton explains.
Madeline, a civil engineer who has been in the industry for more than 28 years, joined the project with Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation in 2021. Her ambition is to provide alternative forms of transportation like transit, cycling, and walking to get people off the road.
“Since COVID, I think trails have been given another life now that people have realized the importance of connection, being outside, and being able to get from one place to another without driving,” Madeline said.
Madeline’s job was to erect the bridges around 900 W.
“Crossing 900 W is challenging because we had to close it down in order to work on it and then we had to take down the crossing signal line arms, as well as just getting funding for the project. The project was originally started in 2017, and due to COVID and inflation, the price increased significantly.”
A grassroots group called PRATT mainly funded the project. PRATT stands for “Parley’s Rails, Trails, and Tunnels” whose focus is connecting the Jordan River Parkway with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.
Parley’s Trail is significant because of its historical beginnings and its longstanding supporters.
Madeline weighs in: “Trails are really important, and now more people are using them. It is a really big deal because now there’s a direct connection all the way from the mouth of the canyon to the Jordan River without pedestrians and cyclists getting into busy traffic, and for people of all abilities, including those in wheelchairs.”
Making this trail accessible for those without cars or disabilities required the use of different designs and technologies for the space available. For Parley’s Trail to be usable and safe, the trail needed to be connected by a bridge which went over dangerous, fast-moving traffic.
“There is an UTA bridge on the south side of the project that had to be taken into consideration,” and it was limited to what kind of equipment you could bring in there due to the construction,” Madeline explains. “The hardest thing about this project is that, design-wise, it’s very challenging for the structural engineers. Space is very tight, which required drilled shafts to be completed for the structure.”
And these drill shafts had to go deep.
“Normally, bridges are built in a different way using different technologies, but in this case, what we did is build a shaft. We had to go into the ground 50 to 60 feet. That’s how deep the footings are for these structures.”
Another draw to the trail is the Sego Lily Plaza, which is a key area that mitigates floodwaters and contains many species of vegetation native to the area. Andrea, the planner overseeing the end of this project, worked with this section but was unavailable for comment.
The entirety of this project goes back further into Utah’s history.
“Part of this trail has been in the works for many years. It’s probably been out there for 20 to 25 years, and it all started with the master plan. But here we are with the final leg and with a direct connection to the Jordan river,” Madeline said. “Basically, PRATT has shepherded this project from beginning to end … they’ve been a very big part of making this project happen.”
Madeline voiced her gratitude at the opportunity to be a part of that history.
“I will always remember this project as the highlight of my career,” she exclaimed.
The grand-bike “ribbon cutting” for the trail will be September 28 at 10am at the Jordan River Trailhead Park, 1055 W 2320 S. Everyone is invited for an inaugural bike ride across the bridge.
Photos by Tani Leavitt and courtesy of Madeline Francisco-Galang.