Utah’s new Jordan River Commission

A big congrats to our colleague Laura Hanson, the new Executive Director of the brand new Jordan River Commission. Created in June of 2010, the Jordan River Commission is looking for ways to improve the conditions surrounding the river, and to make the Jordan River an asset for all the communities lining the corridor.  Laura has several years’ experience with all kinds of planning projects, and brings a diverse skill set to the table. We wish her all the best!

Salt Lake Tribune Article

New director looks to improve Jordan River

By Jason Bergreen

The Salt Lake Tribune

Laura Hanson is excited to be the new executive director of a commission formed last year to preserve and protect the Jordan River.

“The Jordan River Commission is officially open for business, and we’re excited to move forward,” commission Chairman Corey Rushton said last week.

Hanson knows she has her work cut out for her.

She and the commission plan to start coordinating with a slew of municipalities, government agencies and community partners to explore the best ways to govern, protect and develop areas along the river.

“I’m just trying to get my arms around it all at this point,” said Hanson, who became the Jordan River Commission’s director on March 15.

Officials from 11 entities have signed on to the Interlocal Commission: Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties; North Salt Lake; South Salt Lake; West Valley City; Taylorsville; Cottonwood Heights; Sandy; Draper; and the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.

The commission grew out of Envision Utah’s blueprint for the Jordan River. That blueprint includes plans for a nature preserve stretching more than 20 miles and encompassing open space and natural parks; a continuous trail from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake to be used by pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians; lake-to-lake boating; river habitat preservation and restoration; and public transportation, including new TRAX stops, among other options. A more healthy ecosystem, in general, is the goal.

Rushton said the Jordan River has been abused since the pioneers got to Utah.

“We need to clean it up and make it a natural resource,” he said.

The first step is for the commission to begin prioritizing projects and determine what agencies will participate and where money will come from to help pay for them. Hanson will then implement the projects.

Hanson is recognized by the American Institute of Certified Planners as a professional planner with 10 years of community and environmental planning experience. She has managed numerous long-term planning projects in Utah, Idaho and Nevada. One of her strengths is her ability to manage and facilitate diverse groups, Rushton said.

Hanson has bachelor’s degrees in urban planning and environmental studies, as well as a master’s in urban planning, from the University of Utah.

Rushton described Hanson as a politically savvy person with great organizational and planning skills who is adept at forging partnerships.

“She’s a very crucial piece of this commission,” he said. “She just seems to have a [way] of bringing all things together.”

Commission member and South Salt Lake City Councilman Irvin Jones described Hanson as a jack of all trades who has a broad background in planning.

“She seems to have a lot of accomplishments in such a short time,” he said.

Jones said he anticipates getting the trail finished from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. He sees the Jordan River used for multiple purposes by everybody.

“It will be a good balance between the tree-hugger and the mom and families that just want to go for a hike,” he said.

Since its inception in June 2010, the Jordan River Commission has been filling vacant seats on the board, soliciting financial contributions and “trying to set up the business end of all this,” Hanson said.

The board is still seeking community partners to join the commission as ex officio members. An application process is under way, and about 10 people and entities have shown interest in the past few weeks. The commission will meet April 7 at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City, to discuss applicants, among other things.

Hanson has begun meeting with board members and plans to sit down with all of them to hash out the commissions top priorities.

“I want to build trust and show good intent [to the public] with this commission,” she said.