Bridge to Somewhere | News | Salt Lake City Weekly
DONATE

Bridge to Somewhere 

Backman Elementary celebrates completion of 8-year effort to get students safely over the Jordan River.

Pin It
Favorite
click to enlarge Backman Elementary students carry a "We Can Do Hard Things" banner at the ceremonial opening of a new pedestrian bridge over the Jordan River on Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022. - BENJAMIN WOOD
  • Benjamin Wood
  • Backman Elementary students carry a "We Can Do Hard Things" banner at the ceremonial opening of a new pedestrian bridge over the Jordan River on Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022.

FAIRPARK—For many families in the Jordan Meadows neighborhood, Salt Lake City's Backman Elementary could be as close as 100 yards away from home—as the crow flies—while requiring a half-mile trek or more along busy roads to get there.

That's because Backman sits alongside the Jordan River—at 600 North and approximately 1500 West—with homes to the west cut off from direct, convenient access and pushing children and their families out and around via high-traffic thoroughfares.

"It wasn’t safe enough and it wasn’t good enough," city Mayor Erin Mendenhall said on Thursday. "And a river divided the school from the neighborhoods that needed to get here."

But that changed this year with the construction of a new pedestrian bridge spanning the Jordan River to Backman Elementary. The bridge connects to the Jordan River Parkway Trail, offering a safe and inviting pathway for pedestrians.

"We’re here to celebrate the opening of a bridge that is so beautiful it feels like it’s been there all along," Mendenhall said. "That’s what the best public projects look and feel like, like you can’t imagine life without them."

click to enlarge Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall gives the "Quiet Coyote" signal to Backman Elementary students on Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022. - BENJAMIN WOOD
  • Benjamin Wood
  • Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall gives the "Quiet Coyote" signal to Backman Elementary students on Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022.

Students, faculty and school community members were out in droves for Thursday's celebration, with a heavy autumn wind snapping at balloons, streamers and a hand-painted banner proclaiming "We Can Do Hard Things." The bridge was the result of an 8-year effort by school administrators—spearheaded by former principal Heather Newell—and community advocates, who long ago recognized the need for safer walking routes to and from the Backman campus.

"Thank you, community, for knowing what you need and then telling us about it and letting your vision guide what happens in the community," Mendenhall said. "There are other bridges—literal and figurative—that the community needs. And we need you to help us know what those needs are and then to help us make them happen."

Bryce Williams—a Backman Elementary alumnus and member of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education—said the bridge is the start of an effort to better orient educational programming around the Jordan River and its adjacent greenspace.

"The bridge is just Phase 1 ," Williams said. "Up next is the work of building an outdoor classroom and turning this beautiful area into a place where our children can have walkable access to the beauties of nature and open space in their city."

Renderings for a partially-funded reconstruction of 600/700 North show enhanced cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, crosswalks and greenspace. - SALT LAKE CITY DIVISION OF TRANSPORTATION
  • Salt Lake City Division of Transportation
  • Renderings for a partially-funded reconstruction of 600/700 North show enhanced cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, crosswalks and greenspace.

The Backman Elementary bridge is one of several recent pedestrian-oriented improvements on the city's west side. Just south of Backman, new traffic calming measures are under construction along 500 North, and the city is planning a major reconstruction of the 600/700 North corridor to incorporate multi-modal infrastructure into what is currently a car-dominated surface highway.

City Councilperson Victoria Petro-Eschler, whose district includes Backman Elementary, said the bridge is an example of west siders' commitment to "showing up" and pushing for change.

"The reason this bridge looks like it's always been here is because it does what we do on the west side," Petro-Eschler said. "It takes obstacles, it finds solutions and it keeps relentlessly asking people who can make those solutions possible until it happens. This bridge is truly the embodiment of all things west side."

Pin It
Favorite

Tags:

About The Author

Benjamin Wood

More by Benjamin Wood

  • Utah lawmakers to vote on new state flag

    A four-year effort to retire the state's "S.O.B." banner nears its end.
    • Nov 30, 2022
  • Purple Reign

    Democrats gain power in Salt Lake County while Republicans expand their supermajority in the Utah House
    • Nov 11, 2022
  • Trailwashing

    Gov. Cox says Utah will finally start trying to connect walking and biking trails.
    • Oct 29, 2022
  • More »

Latest in News

© 2022 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation