Thousands of invasive Russian olive and tamarisk trees along the Jordan River are quietly being replaced with Fremont cottonwoods and peachleaf willows; and the Jordan River Commission is in the process of revising its 10-year-old master plan.
So far more than 4,000 new trees have been planted along the Jordan River with another 1,000 scheduled for planting this fall, said Jordan River Commission Executive Director Soren Simonsen, noting that the above mentioned trees are being replaced because they push other growth out of the way and do not have the root systems needed to shore-up the river’s sometimes steep banks. Older trees whose life span has ended are also being replaced.
To ensure that the new trees are ready for bank stabilization they first go through a process called tall-pot planting where seedlings first grow for a time in large deep pots with emphasis is on growing deep roots rather than just on making lots of foliage, said Simonsen. The roots have to be deep for the new trees to reach the water table as a result “we are planting really skinny trees with root systems that are three-feet deep,” he said.
In addition to planting new trees, the Jordan River Commission is in the process of updating its master plan called Blueprint Jordan River, and input from more than 5,000 stakeholders and interested residents will help the Commission decide on priorities. The Blueprint was established in 2010 along with the commission which currently has representatives from 17 cities, two counties, two state departments and philanthropic partner the Jordan River Foundation.
“It’s been 10 years since the Blueprint was developed,” said Simonsen. “It’s time for an update and some fresh ideas.” Simonsen was amazed at the large number of responses to their online survey – 7,829 people responded. Top priorities were to clean up trash in the river corridor, improve water quality, preserve and acquire more natural, open spaces along the river, and improve safety with lighting and patrolling.
A copy of the current Blueprint is available on the Commission’s website as well as information on ongoing projects. A draft of the new Blueprint is expected to be completed and ready for review by January 1, 2021.
According to the existing Blueprint major strategies for the Jordan River corridor are to provide and maintain: a 50-plus mile, unobstructed trail from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake for boaters, cyclists, pedestrians and wildlife enthusiasts; and a 7,300-acre linear nature preserve with premier wildlife viewing tours.
The plan also provides for a return to the more historic river corridor with meanders, wetlands; improved water quality and water flow, and rich biodiversity; regional transportation access to the corridor including east-west connecting trails and several new stops that bring recreational users to the trail for day-long excursions; and several new “river centers” with recreational support facilities and dining opportunities in previously industrial areas.
The purpose of the commission according to its website is to encourage and promote multiple uses; foster communication and coordination between various partners and users; promote resource utilization; and promote responsible economic development.