Gallery: Wheadon Farm Park [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
A new and unique park on a 64-acre parcel of land has begun to take shape in southeast Draper. But prospective park visitors will likely have to wait until fall of 2015 to experience the park that is hoped will offer “some real whimsy” in the children’s play area, along with educational and recreational experiences, according to Salt Lake County Landscape Architect/Project Manager Morgan Selph.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams joined Draper Mayor Troy Walker and Councilmember Bill Rappleye, representatives from Utah Open Lands, city and county employees and community members as well as members of the Wheadon family to break ground on the park Sept 24.
“I bet you’ve seen this area change overnight,” McAdams said to the Wheadon family.
“That’s why we think it’s important to buy this (land) up before it’s gone,” he told them.
The county purchased the Wheadon Farm acreage, bordered by 13800 South and the Bangerter Parkway, from Utah Open Lands in 2008 with the intent of making it a park.
The Gene and Deane Wheadon farm had been a working farm from the early 1900s until 1997. In 1997, the Wheadons donated the land to Utah Open Lands, a nonprofit land trust conservation association whose mission is to preserve and protect open space. It does so by assisting landowners in the voluntary preservation of open land.
“Gene loved this land. It was his desire that the land be forever protected,” Wendy Fisher, Utah Open Lands executive director, said.
After purchasing the property, Salt Lake County hired a consulting firm to design concept plans, and three plans were presented at an open house in November 2009 at Draper City Hall, but the county didn’t have the funding to build the park at that time.
2012 brought the passing of a parks and trails bond by Salt Lake County, $6 million of which was designated for the park’s development. The design of the park is guided by a conservation easement put on the property by the Wheadon family. The easement is held by the Utah Open Lands Conservation Association, Inc. and is a binding, legal agreement entered into by the Wheadons and Utah Open Lands for the purpose of protecting the special features of the property by restricting development.
In purchasing the land, the county agreed to comply with the conservation easement. According to the Wheadon Farm Park Master Plan, “the intent (is) for the park to have a strong farm theme with opportunities for urban farming, recreation, relaxation, education, health and sustainability.”
An estimated four acres of the park off the Bangerter Extension will offer multi-use sports fields, but the conservation easement strictly prohibits permanent structures such as goal posts or field lights. A pedestrian bridge will cross over the Jordan Canal that bisects the park. That bridge will lead to a grassy area, a playground and a pavilion.
About 27 acres of the park will remain native vegetation. Walking and biking trails are planned with benches and trees along the way.
“It’s going to be a quiet park,” Selph said.
He added that the park’s paths will loop up to and connect with the Porter Rockwell Trail, and the paths will be marked with measurements so people can gauge how far they’ve walked.
Rappleye commented on the need for parks to be different today than in the past by using less water and keeping things more natural, rather than planting a lot of grass that requires watering by sprinklers.
“This is a great investment by the county and a great partnership with the city,” he said.
Two farmers currently lease parcels of the Wheadon Farm Park. One parcel is about five acres and is accessed from 13800 South where those farmers operate a farm stand and a pumpkin patch in the fall under the name Cottage Greens Farm.
The other farmed parcel, about 10 acres, is used for “community-supported agriculture” where individuals can buy a share of the crops from the farmer, Bell Organic, by enrolling and paying for the program online, then picking up the produce at designated locations during the growing season. Both farm operations will continue once the park opens as they are designed to be part of the park’s learning experience.
Selph said there will be interpretive signage about the history of the park and to educate visitors about what the current farmers are doing.
“You can learn how farming was done in the 30s and 40s and how farming is being done in the 21st century—kind of the concept of teaching kids and families where your food comes from. It will tell the story of the past and into the future,” Selph said. “They [the farmers] will be demonstrating their work to us, as the public, as we visit the park.”
The farm theme will carry over into a barn-themed pavilion which will be built to hold 80 to 100 people.
“I see this as a great place for a family reunion,” Selph said.
A barn is also the chosen theme for a children’s play structure that Selph said will be whimsical in nature, including a touch panel that will allow children to hear the sounds farm animals make.
Walker noted that Draper now has 5,000 acres of dedicated, city-owned open space. He thanked “voters that voted for this type of amenity.”
“It’s a great combination of all the things we’ve come to love in our community such as farming, sports, open space. I’m excited. It’s going to be an awesome park,” he said.
McAdams thanked the Wheadon family for entrusting the land to the county which, he said, has “the intention of turning it into a local treasure.”
McAdams said the park will help to maintain a small-town feel in the midst of a thriving metropolitan area. He said the park will be a nod to the past and a chance to conserve open space with what he deemed “precious acres.”
Selph anticipates that people may begin using the county’s park in the fall of 2015.
“That’s the hope. Depending on Mother Nature, it will either slow or speed it up,” he said.