Newsnotes: August 2007

By catalyst

Seen and heard around town.
by Tamara Rowe
Wasatch Community Gardens in suspense

Earlier this year, Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG) announced that the porperty on which they have operated their 4th East Garden at 400 East 553 South for nearly 25 years had been sold. Emily Aagaard, WCG executive director, learned that the purchaser was another nonprofit organization, Community Development Corporation (CDC), which bought the land to build residential housing units. When CDC made the winning bid, they were unaware that WCG desired to purchase the land. CDC has allowed the approximately 25 WCG gardeners to use the space for one more season. CDC also agreed to look for another piece of land. Meanwhile, WCG is trying to raise the funds necessary to buy the garden if it becomes available.

Mary Younkin, a founding member of the garden, says no one recollects exactly when the garden got started. She believes it might have been more than 30 years ago. It began as a Red Butte Garden & Arboretum protect. “The National Guard helped clear the vacated lot,” Younkin remembers. “There were car parts, some sort of a garage where the shed is now, and the soil was so full of clay, I could make balls out of it.” Mary lives two blocks from the garden and knows a number of friends who moved into the apartments nearby just because of the access to the garden. “It is a very special place. It attracts birds and beneficial insects. The land is completely toxin-free-no pesticides or herbicides have ever been used [in the history of the garden]. You can’t just move a garden like this.” Mary says. She also lamented how much the neighborhood needs the garden, “This neighborhood has seen some rough times the past couple of years.” She mentions Destiny Norton under her breath. “People need a place to go.” People need a sanctuary. “They don’t need another highrise apartment building.”

Susan Finlayson, community education coordinator and manager of community gardening, agrees with Mary Younkin, “People don’t understand what it means to have a garden site built up on 25 years of organic composting.” One can’t just up and relocate a healthy garden, not to mention perennial plants, and fruit trees.

Indeed this is an extremely important piece of land. As Salt Lake City continues to grow, green space diminishes. More and more of our food must be brought in from outside as we lose all ability to sustain ourselves.

WCGs continues to improve the 400 East garden in hopes of one day owning it. They recently installed a water catchement system, utilizing the flat rooftop and gutter sytems of the apartment building directly south.

Building and gardening in the city can and do work together. They need to. Projections show a net loss of 65,610 acres of agricultural land along the Wasatch Front between 1995 and 2020 and an additional 209,090 acres lost between 2020 and 2050. As Salt Lake City continues to rapidly lose its greenspace to development, yards and gardens are lost, and the need for community gardens, such as the one at 400 East, becomes even greater.


Utah Clean Cities Coalition hires new director

Robin Erickson has been selected as the new director of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition based in Salt Lake City. Prior to joining Utah Clean Cities, she was fleet manager for the Newspaper Agency Corporation where she achieved average annual fuel-cost savings of $329,000 annually over some 12 years and kept 11 tons of particulate matter out of Utah’s air by adopting clean, alternative-vehicle fuels such as natural gas.

As an asthma sufferer, Erickson takes the issue of air quality personally. “The future of our air is in our hands, and with strong partnership commitments we can make breathing easier a reality for all Utahns” she says.

Clean Cities, part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, builds partnerships with industry, stakeholders, fleets, fuel suppliers and business partners with the goal of improving air quality and energy independence by decreasing petroleum use.


Taking back the tap

Less than a month after Mayor Anderson, along with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson and Ann Arbor, Michigan’s City Council, banned the use of bottled water funded by the city, many chic restaurants in San Francisco, Boston and New York have eliminated bottled water from their menus. New York City has launched an ad campaign to promote its fabled tap water, long considered the best-tasting in the country.

According to Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C. environmental group, Americans drank 37 billion bottles of water in 2005. “Nearly 40% of bottled water is tap water that has been treated and bottled, and yet the federal government requires far more vigorous testing of municipal water than bottled water,” said Jennifer Mueller, a spokeswoman for the group. She noted an estimated 47 million gallons of oil are used to produce the bottles that Americans drink from each year. Statistics also show that only one out of five bottles gets recycled.

Salt Lake City named one of 13 cities to share $2.5 million “Solar American Cities” grant

Salt Lake City will receive approximately $200,000 from the U.S. Energy Department to promote solar-power technology over the next two years. The money is primarily for researching what cities and counties can do to implement solar power. The cities were picked based on “high electricity demand, a diverse geography, population, and maturity of solar infrastructure as well as the cities’ plan and commitment to a citywide approach to using solar power,” according to the department.

How do you dispose of a fluorescent lightbulb?

The federal government reports that if every American replaced one standard incandescent light bulb with a compact flurescent light bulb (CFL), we would save enough energy to power 2.5 million homes for a year. It’s also equal to removing the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

But unlike traditional bulbs, CFLs-for that matter, all fluorescent light bulbs-contain small amounts of mercury that require a different recycling process.

Salt Lake County drop-off sites for CFLs (fluorescent tubes, too) include all Salt Lake County libraries, as well as the Whitmore Library, Draper Library, C.S. Smith Library, South Jordan Library, R.V. Tyler Library, Bingham Creek Library, Hunter Library, and Magna Library.

Keep in mind, those compact fluorescents last a whole lot longer than incandescents, which require greater efforts from mercury-emitting coal-fired power plants. (The first CFL in the CATALYST office, a gift from Jerry Schmidt back in the ’80s, lasted 10 years!)

If a CFL breaks indoors, here’s what the EPA says to do: “Open nearby windows to disperse any vapor that may escape, carefully sweep up the fragments (do not use your hands) and wipe the area with a disposable paper towel to remove all glass fragments. Do not use a vacuum. Place in a sealed plastic bag and dispose the same way you would batteries, oil-based paint and motor oil at your local Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site.” And yes, it’s totally worth making the switch from incandescents to CFLs.

The Salt Lake Valley Health Department Hazardous Waste Facilities at the following locations also accept spent CFLs and tubes:

Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Facility

6030 W 1300 S. Mon-Sat, 8a-4p

Trans-Jordan Cities Landfill

10873 S 7200 W. Mon-Sat, 8a-4p

University of Utah Environmental News:

U of U cuts water usefor summer

The University of Utah has signed a water conservation pledge from the Utah Rivers Council called “Smart Sprinkling.” The idea is to keep lawns green using the least amount of water possible.

The U will update the campus irrigation system. Sprinklers will now go through a shorter 20-minute cycle to allow grass to saturate and prevent runoff. This system also automatically shuts down if a water main breaks. Also, faulty sprinkler heads will be replaced.

The University is one of the biggest water users in the state. They have cut down water use by 15% in the past five years and hope to be good role model as well as continue this trend.

U of U expands recycling program

The U of U is in the process of distributing recycle bins to every classroom in every building on campus. Bins will be used only for collecting mixed paper, which includes newspaper, magazines and office paper. The University has historically only recycled 20% of its waste. Organizers of the new recycle program estimate that number should jump up to 50%.

Intermodal hub bike station

Salt Lake City is still working on the details of this proposed bicycle transit center at 320 S 600 West. $70,000 has been allocated for the project: $17,500 by the Public Services Department, $20,000 by the Utah Department of Transportation, $30,000 by the UtahTransit Authority, and $2,500 by the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Utah Transit Authority estimates that 16,000 to 17,000 cyclists would use the hub during the first year of operation. If built, the finished hub would provide indoor parking, a bike rental and repair center, and a changing area (possibly with showers).

Peregrine falcon update

The pair of peregrine falcons which have returned to Salt Lake for their third straight year nested on the northeast corner of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and have hatched and reared four chicks. The young peregrines are currently perfecting their flying skills in downtown Salt Lake. Unfortunately, as of July 9, one of the young birds is missing, and volunteers have been unable to locate it. The three remaining fledglings appear healthy and can be seen flying above the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. The birds are most active during the cooler times of the day – early in the morning or before dusk in the evening. If you are interested in seeing the birds, keep your eye on the sky around the LDS Temple. The temple, with its multiple spires, ledges and rock work, makes a good place for the young birds to land. Volunteers can usually be found in the area to help you spot the birds.  -Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Parley’s historic nature park goes to the dogs

Dog lovers and environmentalists alike showed up in record numbers to voice their opinions to the city council on July 17th in regard to the city’s most popular off-leash dog park. “This park is being loved to death,” stated retired biology professor, Ty Harrison. This same phrase was later echoed by Council Woman Jill Remington Love. She, however, went on to say that we need more off-leash areas where people can recreate with their dogs within the city so that Parley’s Historic Nature Park doesn’t suffer so much impact.

The park was dedicated in 1986 as a historic nature reserve. Councilman Eric Jergenson recollected the sketchy drug and gang activities that were common in Parley’s at the time and gave credit to dog owners for helping clean up the park and make it a safer place for the community. The council decided 6-1 that the park shall remain off-leash but a management plan shall be adopted within a month to address environmental concerns and may lead to more on-leash areas within the park.

Running-er, biking for office

For 11 years Ralph Becker, in his position as state legislator, has tried to minimize billboard use in Salt Lake, so he’s not about to buy one to publicize his campaign for Salt Lake City mayor. Instead, check out the lightweight aluminium bicycle trailers he’s had made to tow campaign signs about town. Campaign manager David Everitt says the trailers are a fun way to get the word out and to showcase Becker’s advocacy for bicycle use in the city, and credits the idea to their “ace team of guerrilla marketers.” (Ingrid Price in photo)

This article was originally published on July 30, 2007.