A Vision for Red Butte Creek

At the University of Utah, Red Butte Creek (RBC) is largely invisible to the thousands of people who pass by it every day. The Red Butte Creek Master Plan will transform RBC into a visible showcase and embodiment of the University’s mission and core values.

The Master Plan focuses on the portion of RBC running through campus andResearch Park, but seeks to leverage assets and create benefits along the riparian corridor and throughout the watershed. The transformation we envision is a process of revitalization: from a neglected, degraded, and under-utilized space, to a healthy, beautiful, and highly valued corridor that connects the Wasatch Foothills to Salt Lake City and creates a vibrant campus at the urban-wildland interface.

trash along rbcRevitalization will mean shifting University activities to focus on RBC. Campus plans and design standards will make enforceable policy commitments that support watershed restoration and faculty research. Instructors and students will have state of the art facilities for place-based, hands-on learning. Research Park, Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City and County, and other collaborators will help to build capacity, engage the community, and implement a plan with broad public support.

RBC restoredRevitalization will also mean shifting the physical and built environment on campus, especially the hardscaped impervious surfaces. Bioswales will control and treat contaminated runoff, in place of conventional storm drains. Parking lots will become pervious surfaces, in place of conventional asphalt. Paths, benches, and bridges will integrate RBC into campus life, in place of conventional fences and walls. Native flora and fauna will stabilize the stream bank, provide critical habitat, and improve water quality through nutrient uptake and cycling, creating a vital natural amenity in place of a degraded ecosystem.

These changes will require the University of Utah to reimagine its relationship with RBC. Today, the creek serves as receiving waters for urban drainage, and its unstable banks are a hazard instead of an asset. Through restoration and revitalization, we will create a unique campus amenity that promotes health, advances knowledge, and provides sense of place. There is no better opportunity for the ‘U’ to become a leader in sustainability and to advance the seven part vision – produced in meetings with over 100 campus and community stakeholders – that guides the Campus Master Plan:

  • A lively campus; a magnet for student, faculty, staff and public life;
  • State of the art facilities to support the university’s mission for teaching, research and public life;
  • A setting to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and interaction;
  • Campus as a destination for the public;
  • Functional and sustainable transportation;
  • Capitalize on the natural landscape setting; and
  • Leadership in environmental stewardship.
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