By Katie McKellar (firstname.lastname@example.org), SLC Deseret News article link
SALT LAKE CITY — Poll results are in, and they’re reaffirming city leaders’ decision to close at least two city golf courses: Glendale and Jordan River Par-3.
Two surveys contracted by Mayor Ralph Becker’s office indicate that Salt Lake City residents want open space, parks and trails, but aren’t as interested in golf.
City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, whose district encompasses Glendale, said the results illustrate how Salt Lake residents’ recreation preferences are changing.
“I think Salt Lake, as progressive as we are about many things, is way behind the times for trails,” LaMalfa said. “Cities like Logan, Ogden, Provo, Orem and St. George are way ahead, and the results of this poll suggest that it’s time to get Salt Lake City up to snuff with regards to our urban trails.”
The City Council was presented the findings this week as it considers whether to place a recreation bond on the ballot in November to help fund repurposing of the courses’ green space.
It’s still undecided how much residents would be asked to pay if voters approve the bond, but the mayor’s staff will be using the poll’s results to assemble a package for City Council consideration in July, LaMalfa said.
Together, the surveys reached roughly 1,500 residents. A telephone poll conducted June 1-8 reached 406 residents, equally representing all seven City Council districts, and presented findings with a 5 percent margin of error.
The rest of the information was collected in May at a series of town hall meetings where residents were allowed to vote more than once and attend multiple meetings.
When residents were asked in the telephone survey, “What would you do with repurposed Glendale Golf Course and Jordan River Par-3,” only 6 percent answered “keep the golf courses,” according to the results.
In response to the same question, 31 percent said “parks and playgrounds,” 13 percent said “open or green spaces,” 5 percent said “sports fields and facilities,” and 19 percent said “don’t know or no opinion.”
According to Lindsey Ferrari of Wilkinson Ferrari & Co., which helped with the polling, 26 percent said “other” and produced answers that leaned toward multiuse spaces and recreational facilities, including swimming pools and climbing walls.
Councilwoman Lisa Adams said she has been contacted by constituents who worried the questions were phrased in a way that excluded golf as an option, but said she was confident the surveys allowed for open-ended answers.
City officials said answers showed residents have a strong interest in adding new parks and recreation opportunities, including unpaved trails, urban farms, nature centers, mountain biking parks, and engagement in water-related sports such as kayaking along Jordan River.
Residents also want the city to take better care of existing facilities by maintaining parks, implementing sustainable principles, and switching to secondary water for irrigation wherever possible.
In fact, residents’ answers even showed they’d be willing to help pay for the investments.
When the telephone survey asked, “How much would you be willing to pay per month to support this bond?” the largest group, 32 percent, said $10 or more, the highest option the survey provided. Other answers were spread out among lower numbers, but 21 percent said $4 to $6, and 13 percent said they would pay nothing.
“There appears to be a groundswell of community support, and there’s every reason to keep this moving forward,” LaMalfa said.
Adams pointed out that many of the protesters who attended a rally last weekend to keep the Glendale Golf Course open were not Salt Lake City residents.
LaMalfa said judging from his constituents’ feedback, the survey results seem to accurately reflect their wishes and their interest in golf. He said while Salt Lake City welcomes visitors, it’s residents’ voices should have more weight when considering changes to their neighborhoods.
“It’s hard to feel strongly about supporting the golf system with Salt Lake City taxpayers’ money when the primary beneficiaries are people who live outside of Salt Lake City,” LaMalfa said. “When it comes to trying to create a recreation bond to benefit Salt Lake City residents, those residents should be the only people we listen to.”
The City Council will decide by Aug. 18 whether to place the bond on the Nov. 3 ballot.