The community project to revive the wetlands of the suspended vineyard

The Walkara Way project in Vineyard, Utah would create a park for public use and create a border fence. The left side of the fence is intact while the right side has been part of a pilot grazing program allowing cattle and livestock to help reduce overgrown vegetation in the wetlands around Utah Lake. (Ashley Pun Eveson)

A community project to revive the Vineyard wetlands has been halted due to Lake Restorations Solutions’ progress on the Utah Lake Islands project.

The Walkara Way project is led by Jacob Holdaway, who has dedicated over 20 years of his life to creating a public park called Walkara Way with land donated by Vineyard residents.

Holdaway joined over 25 different government entities to organize the Walkara Way project. He holds a special place in his heart because his family history is tied to Vineyard, where he grew up.

“I remember what Utah Lake looked like before,” Holdaway said. “I remember going to lakeside scout camps and enjoying the wildlife. Now it’s completely different.

One of the original Vineyard homes, pictured here, was built by the Holdaway family. Jacob Holdaway’s family has deep ties to the Vineyard community as one of the founding families. (Ashley Pun Eveson)

Utah Lake is Utah’s largest freshwater lake, covering 148 square miles. It is a state park where people can fish, swim, boat or camp. More than 100,000 people visited the park last year.

Many private wetlands have been abandoned with the decline of agriculture and ranching in the region and are now overgrown, allowing mosquitoes to thrive.

There is no public access to these wetlands, which are owned by residents, and they are not well maintained, Holdaway said.

The Walkara Way project would create a park for public use and create a border fence. He would introduce cattle and cattle to remove vegetation in a sustainable way and help solve the mosquito problem. The project would also repair old field drains to create a healthy wetland ecosystem for birds, Holdaway said.

Named after the chief of the Timpanogos Walkara tribe, the goal of the project is to restore the wetlands to a healthier state and allow the public to use the land.

“I think it’s always a good thing to have extra green spaces available to people,” said Adam Johnson, a BYU graduate student and assistant director at Conserve Utah Valley. “It has many proven benefits — green spaces lead to happier communities and more recreation areas for people. It would be a huge victory to be able to protect all these lands. »

The project has been in the works for a long time, but Vineyard City and Holdaway hit a snag in the development of Walkara Way about a month ago. Holdaway and other Vineyard residents learned through public records requests that Lake Restorations Solutions wanted to purchase the wetlands on the east side of the lake for their Lake Utah Islands project.

Protesters at the Utah State Capitol hold up paper birds saying, ‘Don’t pave Utah Lake’ February 7, 2022 at a rally against the Utah Lake Islands project. (Ashley Pun Eveson)

“It took me by surprise and it was something that was only discussed behind closed doors,” Holdaway said. “There was no transparency with Vineyard City and Lake Restorations Solutions.”

Lake Restorations Solutions plans to create islands on Utah Lake to restore the lake by dredging sediment from the bottom of the lake. The project has generated a lot of controversy, including a BYU plant and wildlife professor, Ben Abbott, being sued for libel because he openly opposed Lake Restorations Solutions.

The project has been put on hold as Holdaway and other project executives are struggling to figure out how to move forward.

On March 1, Vineyard City announced an update on the Walkara Way project: “As a priority for Vineyard and surrounding communities, the project has solidified and received funding from the state legislature. The momentum of this project continues to build.

“This area creates 600 acres of conserved open space,” Vineyard City said, “The Walkara Way proposal has been met with rapid success and approvals, with multiple entities championing the process.”

Although the future of Walkara Way is uncertain, the people of Vineyard continue to fight to preserve public lands.

“Utah Lake is everyone’s responsibility because it influences us all. Talk to your legislators, read the news. Each of these little things you do to educate yourself makes a huge difference. We need everyone on board to kill Goliath,” Johnson said.

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