Jordan River conservation effort flows from trash to triumph
What started as a small cleanup by volunteers grew into the first “Get Into the River” festival to conserve the Jordan River in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley.
In 2012, a dozen Wells Fargo Volunteers armed themselves with rubber gloves, life jackets, paddles, and canoes. The mission: Clean up a six-mile stretch of the Jordan River west of Salt Lake City, working with the environmental nonprofit Splore.
This year, 800 volunteers, three counties, and eight cities participated in the first “Get Into the River” festival — which also involved 12 nonprofits, nine companies, and 24 boats.
The two-day Jordan River conservation effort featured 15 service projects along the waterway and its adjacent Jordan River Parkway trail network of bike and walking paths. Among the highlights: the awarding of $75,000 from Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program to the Jordan River Commission, and the dedication of the last bridge completing the parkway by the Salt Lake Valley Rotary Clubs and Salt Lake County.
Stretching nearly 51 miles through the Salt Lake Valley from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake, the Jordan River and its surrounding corridor of land is considered the hydrological backbone of the Salt Lake Valley and hosts a wide array of wildlife and native plants.
Denise Winslow, Wells Fargo’s Community Affairs manager for Utah, says the festival marks the first time companies, governments, and nonprofits have come together to clean up and celebrate the waterway.
“We wanted a unique volunteer experience for our team members that made a difference,” Denise says of the 2012 Wells Fargo Volunteers project that spawned the festival. “As we cleaned up trash, and our team members logged nearly 4,000 hours of work, we made the connection with the Jordan River Commission. Joining forces to make this a community event to clean up and celebrate this beautiful natural resource seemed a natural next step.”
Adds Laura Hanson, the commission’s executive director, “We had a crazy idea to have this giant service project up and down the river every year. It’s turned into something bigger and better than I think any of us ever expected.”
Lynn Larsen, landscape architect and project manager with the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation department, which manages the parkway, says the festival already is boosting awareness.
“People are beginning to realize we’ve got some great recreational amenities right here in Salt Lake City,” Lynn says. “When you’re on the river, sometimes you hardly even realize you’re right in the middle of a big city.”