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Taylorsville community council celebrates one-year anniversary of Vista Park playground renovation

Nov 03, 2017 03:25PM ● Published by Carl Fauver

A Taylorsville community council is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its $250,000 Vista Park facelift. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

Gallery: Taylorsville [4 Images] Click any image to expand.

A Taylorsville community council has taken the adage “you can’t fight city hall” and stood it on its head. Rather than “fighting,” Community Council 2A (based around 5000 South and Redwood Road) has worked with city elected officials in recent years to complete a couple of major improvement projects.

And now they’re looking for more.

“People need to know they can get big things done, if they work for them,” said Retta McIff, a former Taylorsville Community Development Department employee. “I was one of the people who worked to create community councils, and this one is making the most of it.” 

This fall Community Council 2A is celebrating the one-year anniversary of a major facelift at Vista Park (2100 West 5000 South). 

“We did some research and learned there are about 16,000 participants who play in baseball and softball games each year on the Vista Park diamonds,” said former 2A Community Council Vice Chairwoman Jolene Dearden. “Trouble is, those kids often came with siblings who had nothing to do, if they got tired of watching the games. The park’s playground equipment was old and run down.” 

Faced with this challenge, rather than simply appearing before Taylorsville elected officials to demand the city do something, community council members instead began doing the city’s homework for them.

“When (community council members) came before us, they had their ducks in a row,” said City Councilwoman Kristie Overson. “They were well-organized and came to us with a very strong case for improving the Vista playground.”

By the time they were done, the community council had secured quarter-million dollars in funding.

“We about fell off our chairs when the city council approved our $250,000 budget for the park improvements,” Dearden added. “We made visits to several parks — in West Jordan, Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, even Layton — to see different types of playground equipment. We got what we wanted and about tripled the size of the Vista Park playground.”

Installation of the new playground equipment began in October of last year and was completed in January.

“The change in activity at the playground has been absolutely unbelievable,” Dearden said. “In previous years, I’d only see two or three kids on the equipment at a time. Now it’s not unusual to see 50 or more. I’m amazed how much it’s being used.”

“I am such a huge supporter of community councils because they are a great avenue for residents to meet each other and to work toward common goals,” Overson said. “The issues don’t always have to relate to the city. Community councils can also address school district policies for example. They are a good way to create strength in numbers.”

When Taylorsville City officials chose to establish community councils, they envisioned two for each of the city’s five council districts, or 10 total. However, Overson said she is only aware of two active councils throughout the city.

“Besides the community council (2A) in my district, I know the other one is in Councilman (Ernest) Burgess district (one),” she said. “That group was responsible for the recent improvements made at the old Cabana Club (1560 West 4610 South). So these groups are able to get things done.”

Even as they celebrate the one-year anniversary of their improved Vista Park playground, Dearden isn’t even sure that is her community council’s biggest accomplishment.

“A few years ago, our community council also worked to get the nice wall installed on the west side of Redwood Road, from 5000 to 5300 South,” she said. “That also involved a lot of work. But on that project — just like the playground project — the city council seemed very impressed with the research we put into it and authorized the funding to get it done.” 

“On (the wall) project, community council members went to all of the affected homeowners themselves, to get approvals,” Overson added. “They did the legwork. I’d love to see more community councils become active so we could see improvements in other parts of the city.”

Current Community Council 2A Chairman Larry Hiller said the group has not yet identified its next big project, but is always looking.

“Right now, we are working to strike a deal with a local store to get a discount on lightbulbs for outdoor lighting,” he said. “We want to make our neighborhoods safer by having more people leave their lights on overnight.”

 To get more information on how to create your own Taylorsville community council, city officials say you should contact your elected councilperson.  

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