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Letter to the Editor: Mayor responds to concerns regarding park construction and funding

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Dear Editor,

Recently, the Lehi Free Press published an opinion article by Beky Beaton about Lehi’s need for regional athletic complexes. We couldn’t agree more. We have been advocating for Mellor-Rhodes Park since 2015, when our parks master plan identified a deficiency in soccer and baseball fields. The biggest challenge has been generating funding to build these facilities. 

While it appears that Lehi City is seeing dramatic revenue increases, the cost of providing services is also growing. Most ofour increased revenue goes toward installing roads and waterinfrastructure, hiring public safety employees, and maintaining existing services. We simply don’t have the revenue to complete a regional recreation facility without exploring alternative funding options. 

Residents will remember that Lehi City proposed a parks bond in 2016 that would have funded the completion of both Family Park and Mellor-Rhodes Park. Residents voted down the ballot proposition. We respect that our residents did not agree with thebond, but we have been left without a funding mechanism to complete these much-needed parks. 

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In 2021, Lehi residents voted to support the PARC tax, which will help us generate some revenue for parks and arts. This year the city council committed 70% of PARC revenue to parks projects and 30% to arts and cultural organizations. We are thrilled to have another funding source for our parks, arts, and cultural programs; however, this will only provide a small portion of the funds needed to complete our regional facilities. 

The cost of building a park has increased dramatically in the last six years. In 2016 the cost to build Mellor-Rhodes Park wasabout $13 million. Today the park is estimated to cost $34 million. Approximately $6 million is allocated just to bring infill dirt to raise the property out of the Utah Lake flood plain and make it usable. 

As Ms. Beaton stated, the City Council has decided to reallocate $5 million from Mellor-Rhodes to Family Park. We have decided to delay the park’s construction so that developers can bring in fill dirt from other construction projects at no cost to the city. This will ultimately result in cost savings for Lehi residents. 

The City Council also decided to reallocate money from Dry Creek Lake to Family Park. City staff has recently expressed concerns about whether the lake could hold enough water toprovide recreational opportunities. In addition, other shareholders have the right to draw water from the reservoir, which may lower water levels during peak summer months. We are preparing to add a clay liner to the reservoir to maintain water levels. We felt it was prudent to complete the reservoir and test its capacity before investing in recreational amenities. 

Of the three parks, Family Park is best poised for moving forward with construction. This park will be built in phases, andwe are excited to include an all-abilities playground in the next phase. This will provide a significant opportunity for an underserved population in our community. 

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We look forward Mellor-Rhodes Park becoming a regional athletic complex in the future. We appreciate the support and understanding of our residents as we grapple with the challenges of building state-of-the-art recreational amenities for our rapidly growing community. 

Mayor Mark Johnson

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