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West Jordan Journal

A city and her trees

Jul 28, 2017 11:33AM ● By Becca Ketelsleger

After vandalism occurred along 2200 West last year, 35 trees ended up needing to be removed. (Becca Ketelsleger/West Jordan City Journal)

For 21 years, West Jordan has been a Tree City USA. 

Founded in 1976 by the Arbor Day Foundation, the Tree City USA program “provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees,” per the program’s website. 

Currently, West Jordan has an estimated 13,000 city-owned trees. The care of these trees has been entrusted to Ty Nielsen, the city’s Urban Forester. 

Nielsen has been with the city of West Jordan for almost two years as its urban forester. 

“It is a self-rewarding job, and it’s kind of in my DNA,” said Nielsen. “My great-grandfather planted the trees at Liberty Park.” 

Last year, 81 trees were vandalized along 2200 West. Of those trees, 35 were removed. 

To help with replacement costs, Nielsen applied for the Community Forester grant through the state. At the city council meeting on June 14, Jeran Farley, the Urban Forestry coordinator from the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands, came to present the grant to the city. 

“The committee who approves these grants unanimously chose West Jordan as the recipient for the $8,000 grant,” said Farley. “The cause that he applied for is definitely worthy.” 

Every year, nearly 15 cities apply for the grant and only a handful are chosen to receive it, depending on funding.

Farley said that the grant is a matching grant, meaning West Jordan pledged to match the amount of $8,000 through funds and/or labor hours to help complete the project. 

“We want to commend West Jordan for being who you are and valuing trees in your community,” said Farley. “It’s a wonderful thing.” 

West Jordan’s appreciation of trees continued throughout the remainder of the June 14 city council meeting. 

The first item up for consideration during the public hearing portion of the meeting involved the Redwood Road Streetscape study. 

“The city of West Jordan has the general plan that contains a number of goals and policies that are geared specifically toward making improvements along Redwood Road, to enhance the appearance of the street and make it more attractive to the businesses,” said Ray McCandless, city planner. 

In March of 2017, the study was brought before the council as a business item. At that meeting, it was recommended that the study be taken to the planning commission and then brought back. On May 2, the planning commission forwarded a positive recommendation to the city council for the study as proposed. 

The proposed improvements would help the flow of traffic, create a safer experience for pedestrians and make the area more attractive overall for businesses and residents along Redwood Road. 

These changes included maintaining three lanes of traffic but converting the two-way left-turn lane into a planted median or dedicated turn lane, creating designated bus pullouts and separating the sidewalks from the traffic with trees and creating mid-block crosswalks. 

The changes would be made on Redwood Road from one end of the city to the other and would be done in different phases as funding can be raised. The total amount needed for the project would be approximately $24.92 million. 

Several possible funding sources would include UDOT, UTA and the state legislature. 

“If you put the first foot forward, commercial development will come,” said Jay Bollwinkel from MGB+A, a local landscape architecture firm. 

The trees lining the street and planted in the median would be planted in the ground, with ornamental grass surrounding them. 

The discussion arose to begin with the area in front of city hall as phase one of the project. 

“I like how it looks,” said Councilman Alan Anderson. However, he went on to say that if it starts there, the city would be committing to do more. 

Mayor Kim Rolfe offered himself and City Manager Mark Palesh to approach UTA and UDOT to see if they would agree to an even split of the cost of the improvements for phase one. After that, they would approach the state legislature for funding for the rest of the project. 

Not all were in favor of the changes however. 

One resident voiced concerns about visibility for pedestrians at bus stops if trees are planted. 

“I don’t like having trees down the middle of the road,” said another West Jordan resident, Steve Jones. “It cuts my peripheral view.” 

However, Bollwinkel argued that these concerns can be easily dissuaded by using “high-branching trees,” which would allow visibility to approximately 10 feet high. 

“With the trees in the median, it will change the whole look and feel of the street,” said Bollwinkel. 

As the city’s urban forester, Nielsen provides a different perspective. 

“It’s a very dangerous thing,” cautioned Nielsen. “It’s one of the busiest and highest-speed roads in the city for anyone who has to do maintenance in the median. It is very dangerous.”

After some further deliberation, the Redwood Road Streetscape Study was approved with all councilmembers in favor.