City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

July 16, 2017

July 15th

The Homeless and the Canyon

External Link to Image

Bluets on Bulrush in City Creek Canyon at Seep (Lat. 40.8014929, Long. -111.8749328). Author taken July 2017.

3:30 p.m. True summer heat near 100 degrees Fahrenheit returns and the canyon air takes on oven-like qualities of later in the season. While I was born in the cold of the northeast, part of my adolescence was spent under the blazing sun of southern California deserts. My now heated adapted summer body takes the high temperatures easily. The pulse slows; veins and arteries expand; blood flows and cools in hands and legs. Limbs become flexible; muscles relax; and toxins escape through open pores. The mind becomes lethargic and meditative, but with exercise in heat, thinking remains clear.

The heat has emptied the first mile of road, and only a few joggers are present. The road becomes as empty as in the opposite side of the temperature scale, that is in the depth of winter (December 27th). As in winter, I no longer recognize in myself the person who ran through five degree temperatures.

The heat also affects mammals and insects. Counter-intuitively, it makes Rock squirrels active, and I count three in the first mile. Insects begin to succumb. On the road’s surface, Grasshopper (Melanoplus sp.) lays dead, baking on the road, and that carcass is followed by a Giant western crane fly. Next, I find a spent Cabbage white butterfly. This allows me to examine one this usually hyperactive insect with my hand lens. As their name implies, the Cabbage whites are white in color, but close-up their abdomens are jet black. Numerous white hairs cover that segment and make the butterfly appear all-white.

The earth has dried out, and turns the rare cases of stationary surface water in the canyon into oases. The oasis at the seep about 100 yards below picnic site no. 6 (Lat. 40.8014929, Long. -111.8749328) has reached an idyllic peak of diversity. In an ellipsis of sixty by twenty feet, Circumpolar bluets rest on Bulrushes surrounded by Indian ricegrass and fronted by Kentucky bluegrass. These grasses surrounds a water rivulet in which Western Yellowjacket wasps and White Admiral butterflies stop and rest for a drink. Giant cattails are flanked on one side by six foot tall Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia (Benth.) Kuntze), a.k.a. Nettleleaf Giant Hyssop or Nettleleaf Giant Horsemint, covered in Cabbage white butterflies. On the other stands five foot tall blue Chicory. Stands of Starry solomon’s seal are backed by a large grove of Western poison ivy and are intermixed and are intermixed with Common California aster. A cultivar Weeping willow (Salix babylonica) shades the up-canyon end of the glade.

A short-distance downcanyon, three rare butterfly visitors are seen with orange wings, a black circumferential band and white wing spots. These are Mexican queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus strigosus), and they are usually restricted to New Mexico.

Up-canyon, this season’s teasels (Dipsacus sylvestris) have risen to four feet in height below the Red Bridge. For some weeks, the great two foot triangular leaves of the Burdock (Arctium minus Berhn) invasive weeds that line the canyon road have been raising two and three foot vertical stalks, but their purple flower heads have yet to open.

Today, I place three sponges in the lower canyon. The first is in the stream below the pond at picnic site 5. The second is in the seep 100 yards below picnic site 6, described above, and the third in at the watercress stand at the tunnel seep 50 yards below picnic site 6. I will retrieve these in a few days to see what mirco-life has become trapped or grown in the sponge’s cavities.

The intense Sun has boiled huge summer cumulus clouds from the reservoirs that line the eastern side of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range, and the clouds frame the north and eastern ridgelines of the canyon as I reach the Gate. Those reservoirs provide the valley with most of its drinking water. In the parking lot, an elderly gentleman, who each day leaves a homeless concentration zone at 500 West and 200 South in the City to seek the canyon’s cool breezes, sits on a bench eating a sandwich.

* * * *

The homeless have long had a relationship with City Creek Canyon. In addition to the homeless person who spends the day at a picnic parking lot, another homeless individual frequents the canyon during the winter, but spends cold nights in a local supermarket. Sometimes in the depths of winter, I have taken the homeless who come to the canyon with the intention of camping overnight back to the city and advise them that they have underestimated the sub-zero temperatures of canyon winter nights. Some are obviously mentally ill. They talk to themselves and their mental illness is either the result of the stress of becoming homeless or an effect of their pre-existing mental illness. For many years, there was a small homeless tent city near the parking lot gate off the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, but in recent years, the County and the City cleared the camp out. Now the watershed patrol vigorously patrols the canyon and takes any homeless citizens back to the concentration zone on the valley floor citing the fear that persons in a homeless camp might set the canyon’s grasslands on fire. While that is a legitimate concern, I suspect the City also quickly acts to remove any homeless from the canyon in part because middle-income citizens simply do not want the homeless there. They fear the homeless as potentially violent and secretly they fear becoming homeless themselves in an uncertain economy.

Salt Lake citizens struggle with the moral ambiguities created by their city’s homeless concentration zone. City residents have long resisted building sufficient facilities to house the homeless on the unsupported theory that building more beds will attract more homeless, and residents, like most other major United States cities, have long avoided building enough affordable housing. The City also struggles with the practice of surrounding communities and hospitals shipping their destitute and ill residents to into the City’s concentration zone. In the 1980s, Salt Lake City took the lead on homelessness by opening Utah’s first homeless shelters. Rather than expending monies addressing their own homeless problem by building their own shelters, for years, neighboring cities have shipped their destitute to the concentration zone citing that Salt Lake City was the only municipality with facilities to house them. Although the concentration zone has become a state and national embarrassment, city residents prefer to keep the homeless out-of-sight and away from other areas of the city, including out of the canyon.

The homeless’ relationship with the canyon goes back farther than this: the homeless built the canyon’s infrastructure. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the City dealt with its homelessness problem by shipping the destitute to the canyon. An early Utah statute permitted cities to impress the destitute and mentally ill convicted of the crime of vagrancy into road work gangs (Utah Code Ann. 10-8-85). In the early 1900s, when the City wanted to build a wider, graded road up City Creek Canyon to promote the new automobile tourism, it began systematic sweeps of the city, arresting the homeless for vagrancy as needed to supply laborer for building the canyon’s road (e.g., Salt Lake Herald, Sept. 26, 1910; Salt Lake Telegram, Nov. 11th, 1913). The city police were sophisticated in their sweeps. For example, in 1908, the road gang needed an experienced “dynamite man” to handle explosives used to break up rock ledges along the canyon road’s path. The Police Department did a sweep of vagrants seeking to arrest one with necessary skill (Deseret Evening News, April 24th, 1908). Unemployed miners got wind of the scheme and fled the city. A particularly racist cartoon, by modern standards, in the August 14th, 1904 Salt Lake Tribune shows who was working on road gangs and what residents’ attitudes were towards the poor. The gangs consisted of elderly unemployed men, persons with alcohol addiction, and minorities. On April 28th, 1908, Mark Aaron, a prisoner serving a 90 day sentence for vagrancy, was shot to death in the canyon will attempting to escape the road gang (Deseret Evening News). The officer claimed that he was aiming for Aaron’s legs, but missed and instead the bullet entered Aaron’s head. In 1972, the United States Supreme Court declared vagrancy laws unconstitutional.

This darker era in Salt Lake’s past provides some instruction for the City’s modern homeless problem. What the destitute need to restore their dignity is a roof over their heads and paying employment, even if that means government provided make work. If at night there are any ghosts wandering the canyon, they are probably of homeless men rattling their work gang chains.

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On July 15th, 2015, Mayor Ralph Becker proposes a “Connecting to Nature” plan in which $125 million USD bond would fund park renovations and new land acquisition (Deseret News). On July 15th, 1938, hard oil surfacing of the scenic drive along Bonneville Drive and 11th Avenue was nearly complete (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 17th, 1915, the U.S. Weather Bureau installed an advanced stream flow measuring gauge at the High Line Water Tanks in Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Herald). On July 15th, 1891, the Red Bird Mine reports opening a four foot wide vein that may contain 1,000 ounces of silver (Salt Lake Times). Fifteen men are working at various prospects in City Creek Canyon (id).

July 13, 2017

July 12th

Latter Saint Day Conservation

7:30 p.m. Today, I go for a short jog up to the seep below picnic site 6 and then back down the Pipeline Trail. The successive days of summer heat is transforming the canyon. The tips of some Gambel’s oaks begin to curl and turn brown, and Starry solomon’s seal on the dry side of the road below picnic site 3 have curled up and turned brown. The road divides plants that are dry verses water tolerant. On the wet stream side of the road, Scouring rush horsetails line the stream. On the bank of the dry side of the road, Spikerushes have grown up to four feet in height. Herbaceous plants along the first one-third of road mile have turned from green to yellow-green. The Foxglove beardtongues are the only flowering plants that seem to grow more vigorously in this dryness and heat. Hidden near the stream, yellow-flowered Goldenrod plants (Solidago spp. L. or Solidago canadensis) grow three feet tall. Near mile 0.6, a new grove of yellow Toad flax (also called Butter-and-eggs) blooms out of its spring season in a microclimate of a shaded-cleft of the stream’s bottom. Yellow, the color of warm sun, is the color of this season.

It is the time of grasses. Along the road are the tall and slender Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), fuller-headed Blue wild rye (Elymus glaucus), and open-headed Wild bunchgrass. The smaller roadside Foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum L.) weeds begin to turn brown. At the seep below picnic site 6, there are Bulrushes (Schoenoplectus (Rchb.) Palla spp.), a sedge like marsh grass with large round heads, and the delicate bunchgrass Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides). All have turned brown, and multiple shades of brown are the other color of this season.

At the seep below picnic site 6, the six foot tall Cattails have gone to seed and they start to turn brown from the top of the green cigar-shaped female pistillate down towards the pistillate’s base. The male spikes above the pistillates are flush with pollen. Blue Chicory and blue Common California aster (Aster chilensis a.k.a. Symphyotrichum chilensis) are also found in the seep.

Turning back towards the City and down the Pipeline Trail, young Lazuli buntings call in the fading light from the oaks and while perched on the powerline above the trail. Underneath the dwarf Gambel’s oaks, the subshrub Creeping Oregon grape (Mahona repens) grows with its pale blue fruit. Somehow, I missed its yellow flowers during the spring. Just down trail from Oregon grapes on dry exposed soil, a 50 by 20 foot patch of cylindrical green immature Broom snakeweed bushes (Gutierrezia sarothrae) is responding to bright, hot days. They will expose their yellow flowers in a few weeks.

Overhead, high linear clouds turn bright pink as the sun sets and the sky darkens.

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Mormons have super-majority voting control in the Mormon corridor – roughly an area three hundred miles on either side of a line running from Coreur d’Alene, Idaho on the north, through Salt Lake City, and then to Scottsdale, Arizona on the south. In the Utah portion of the corridor about sixty-six percent of voters identify with the L.D.S. Church. Mormons pride themselves on a tradition of conservation and foreword-thinking urban planning. As evidence of that cultural tradition, they site the early cooperative efforts of the Euro-American colonists of 1847 in cooperatively building irrigation ditches when the valley was settled (Galli 2006, Alexander 2006). Salt Lake City’s long-standing water manager, LeRoy Hooten, Jr., credited church leader Brigham Young with preserving the City Creek Canyon watershed with early, far-seeing water pollution laws (Hooten 1986). The early settlers laid out Salt Lake City in a grid pattern based on a vision of the City of Zion by their first prophet, Joseph Smith. This Mormon tradition of stewardship has a basis in their religious teachings (Galli 2006, Alexander 2006). Their teachings extoll that “the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings” and that eventually, a divine creator will require “every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship” (Doctrine and Covenants, sections 104:12-13; Galli 2006). Brigham Young University history professor Thomas Alexander describes how Brigham Young and early church leaders taught mixture of religious conservation with entrepreneurship. Church members were expected to pursue a business life and to development natural resources while preserving and enhancing a divinely provided trust of the natural life (Alexander 2006).

This cultural tradition reappears periodically in Utah political dialog. Local attorney and former head of the Bureau of Land Management under President Clinton, Patrick Shea, often alludes to it. In supporting President Clinton’s declaration of the Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument, Shea claimed that Brigham Young declared “City Creek Canyon off-limits to logging, mining or any activities that could pollute the creek or harm the environmental refuge next to the growing city” (Salt Lake Tribune Oct. 6, 1996). Shea has also been active in preserving City Creek Canyon and in supporting the construction of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that crosses the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, May 7, 1997). In 2015, he opposed the Mountain Accord, a private proposal to limit development in the Wasatch Front Mountain Range canyons on the grounds that it did not provide enough protection, citing Brigham Young’s historical precedent of sustainable use in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune March 21, 2015). The Mormon tradition is cited by Utah free-market proponents as a justification to transfer all federal lands to state control. Because of their dominate Mormon religion, Utahans will be good stewards of any newly received lands, it is claims.

Although Mormons talk environmental values, their conduct is little different from aggressive commercial exploitation of the natural environment (Flores 1985). Brigham Young engaged in heavy of logging that denuded much of the first growth forest in the City Creek Canyon (see entries March 21st through March 25th). His lumber operations in City Creek was an important component of Young’s personal and early church wealth (March 25th, April 4th). Water pollution controls and modern water infrastructure in City Creek Canyon were enacted after the non-Mormon Liberal Party and “Gentile” Mayor Richard Baskin first took control of Salt Lake City government in the 1890s, after Young’s death (Feb. 6th). Even after non-Mormons took control of city government, they allowed extensive mining in City Creek canyon through 1920 (March 26th). Hull noted the contradiction between the rise of Utah forest conservation in the early 1900s that stopped the over-harvesting of timber and the concurrent unabated overgrazing of rangelands (Hull 1976). But Hall’s research answers his own question. He noted that Bancroft (1890) reported that by grazing for free on public lands, early Mormon ranchers realized gross margins of 40 percent on sheep and of 84 percent on cattle. Because of simple greed by 1900, early Utah ranchers denuded the rangeland by overgrazing, and then through the 1930s, they continued practices that allowed invasive cheat grass to cover the state (July 7th).

Another disturbing aspect of fringe Mormon environmental beliefs, not discussed by Alexander or other Mormon scholars, relates to Armageddon or “end-days” theology. My own personal experience with a few Mormons, admittedly a non-representative sample from lower income classes, is that they believe that environmental protection is not necessary because the degradation of the Earth is a symptom of biblical end times. They candidly state that there is no need to preserve resources because after the end-time, a divine creator will provide the religious post-Armageddon few with a brand new earth, free of pollution and restocked with natural resources. One historian has also noted this cultural phenomena (Flores, 173-174).

Alexander’s response to critics of Mormon stewardship of Utah lands is that church leaders can only extol their members to conform to its religious teachings (Alexander 2006). Their secular actions are no different than the followers of the modern environmental movement, such as Deep Ecology, where the actual commercial practices of individuals may deviate from doctrinal ideals (id). A modern example might be subscribing to the Sierra Club magazine while opting to purchase a Humvee instead of a Prius. In this respect, I agree with Alexander: the environmental behavior of historical and modern Utah Mormons is not exceptional or different from their secular consumer counterparts. But those LDS conservation traditions and religious teachings provide a useful reminder that can be employed to counter the environmental excesses of the Mormon controlled Utah state government and local private industry.

* * * *

On July 12th, 1916, the YMCA led an outing of boys up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 12th, 1906, City Creek Canyon was closed to fishing because the stream had been fished out, and the Fisherman’s Protective Association was working to re-stock the stream (Deseret Evening News). On July 12th, 1905, City Mayor Hewlett signed a resolution approving construction of a bridge across City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Telegram). This is probably the bridge were the stream crosses present day Bonneville Drive. On July 12th, 1890, plans for a 120 foot high wooden bridge across City Creek Canyon at Ninth Avenue were obtained by E. L. Craw (Salt Lake Times). On July 12th, 1899, John W. Snell reported assaying high quality lead, silver and gold ore eight miles up City Creek Canyon, and the Red Bird Mine is still producing (Ogden Standard).

July 10, 2017

July 1st

Talking Plants – Part I – Hidden scents

2:00 p.m. In the heat of the afternoon, it is another butterfly day. Cabbage white and Western tiger swallowtail butterflies line the road. Families stroll through the heat on a holiday weekend.

It is also the time of mature trees. The giant trees of the canyon – those taller than seventy-feet – now dominate the canyon experience. Species include Box Elder trees, Rocky Mountain narrowleaf cottonwood trees and Freemont’s cottonwood trees (Populus fremontii). They now provide a partial canyon that protects the mid- to small-sized trees and the understory bushes from the harsh summer sun. Walking past one of these biological skyscrapers, one can feel the increase in humidity from their exhalations. In winter, their skeletons are ignored and when walking up-canyon during the cold season, one does not give them a passing thought.

At Guardhouse Gate, Black-headed grosbeaks and Lazuli buntings dominate. At picnic site 3, Song sparrows are prominent, and at third active zone of birds appears at milepost 1.1.

At seep below picnic site 6, the Starry solomon’s seal has, in seemingly a few days, been overrun by Western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii). It is now a deep green, and in the fall will turn a deep red (Sept. 23rd).

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 1st, 1852, he notes that rabbit’s foot clover is turning colorful, mulleins are turning yellow, wild roses are at their peak. He describes a white lily in depth. He hears a red-eye, oven-bird and a yellow-throat. On July 1st, 1854, he again notes that the edges of distant objects are distinct in clear air. He watches the shadows of clouds moving across the land. On July 1st, 1859, he notes white ranunculus is in bloom.

* * * *

Plants communicate with each other and with insects by volatile airborne chemical signals in order to coordinate defenses against herbivores (Hartley 2010, Hartley 2009, Alba 2012, Engelberth 2012, Heil and Karbon 2009, see Witzany and Baluska (ed) 2012). Experiments suggest that Box Elder trees, the Gambel’s oaks, the bushes of the understory, the Curly dock weeds, the Starry Solomon plants, the sagebrush, and the other plants currently active in the canyon are carrying on a conversation, unheard by human interlopers. Experiments have been done on plants outside species of the Gambel’s oak forest, but one example exists for communication between the sagebrush groves along east Bonneville Drive. In 2011, Shiojiri at Kyoto University, Karban at University of California at Davis and Ishizaki at Hokkaido University replicated and expanded Karban’s 2006 study on Great basin sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) plant communication (Shiojiri, Karban and Ishizaki 2011). They found that the neighbors of sagebrush plants mechanically damaged with scissors but allowed to spread VOCs suffered less damage from grasshoppers than sagebrush plants not allowed to receive VOC emissions from the damage sagebrush. In short, sagebrush plants talk with their sagebrush neighbors and warn them to start producing insecticides to ward off grasshoppers. In 2008, Mäntylä et al at the University of Bristol demonstrated that birch trees issue volatile airborne chemicals, not detectable by humans, when attacked by caterpillars. To control scents, they contained some damaged branches in plastic bags, but left other branches exposed. Birds preferentially visited and attacked branches where trees’ VOC scent was present. In short, their Great Britain birches talk to birds. Although the specific species in investigated in Great Britain are not present in the canyon, the canyon hosts Birchleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus Raf.). In 2011, Mäntylä et al demonstrated a similar effect in Scottish pines (Mäntylä et al 2011). Engelberth notes that some plants use VOCs to signal predatory insects, e.g. predatory wasps, that they have been damaged by insect herbivores that are preferred foods of the predator insect (Engelberth 2012).

Plant species talking between themselves, with other species of plants, and with insects and birds may have arisen by conferring an evolutionary advantage (Heil and Karban 2010). By alerting its same-specie and inter-specie neighbors, sagebrush, for example, can create a herd-like resistance to grasshopper attacks. Similarly, by talking with insects and birds, plants create co-evolutionary relationships that benefit both the plant and associated insect eating birds (id., Engelberth 2012). Through 2010, Heil and Karban summarize known examples of plant “talking” with VOCs (id). In this Great Basin canyon, such communication has only been shown specifically for Great basin sagebrush, but Heil and Karban also list known plant VOC demonstrations for families of plants whose cousins are also present in the City Creek Canyon, including willow trees, sugar maples, poplar trees and alder trees. That the other trees and other plants present in City Creek Canyon are talking to a each other seems a reasonable extrapolation, but demonstration of their VOC communication remains to be shown by future researchers.

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On July 1st, 2001, City Planning Director Stephen Goldsmith notes that a gate has been added at Memory Grove to control traffic (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 1st, 1997, a small grass fire broke out near Memory Grove (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 1st, 1925, a Salt Lake Telegram editorial approved of the City’s use of “hoboes, drunkards and indolent men” on the prison road work crew then working in City Creek Canyon. On July 1st, 1920, twenty-five service men convalescing at St. Marks Hospital will be given a picnic outing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On July 1st, 1919, a Salt Lake Telegram editorial reported that a large fire had been burning in City Creek for several days (Salt Lake Telegram). The Telegram reported rumors that the fire may have been started by I.W.W. members (id). (Famed I.W.W. organizer Joe Hill had been previously executed in Salt Lake City in November 1915.)

June 23, 2017

June 21st

Growth Spurts

6:45 p.m. In the cool of the late evening, I jog towards Pleasant Valley at mile 1.2. A Lazuli bunting (Passerina amoena) perches near the gate. Near mile 0.3, a flash of bright yellow on the outside of a tree catches the eye. It is a Yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia). At mile 1.1, I mistake plaintive calls for raptor chicks, but it is only the squawking of a pair of Western scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica).

The summer-like heat turns flowering plants. The leaves of Wild carrots (Lomatium dissectum), a.k.a. Fernleaf biscuitroot, are browning, and their seeds are turning a light purple. Curly dock weeds (Rumex crispus) have turned a deep brown. I admire Curly dock. It grows, flowers, and dies over only for a few weeks in the spring, but then its rich brown color accents the canyon throughout the rest of the year. Only in the early spring, does it finally succumb to winter’s weather, and then in a few weeks, it begins to regrow. Even the seeds of yesterday’s Milkweed have turned from a light green to a subtle purple in a single day. Foxglove beardtongues (Penstemon digitalis) that have delicate bell-like flowers have deepened in color from white to streaked pink.

Other plants respond to this initial summer heat with a growth spurt. Starry solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum stellatum) have reached almost two feet in height. At the seep below picnic site 6, watercress (Nasturtium officinale) has grown four inches in height in just a few days. Scouring rush horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) along the road stand erect and have also reached two feet in height. At lower Pleasant Valley field, Wild bunchgrass (Poa secunda) is two to two and one-half feet high. Heat drives this rush.

Hovering other the Pleasant Valley field, a fleet of twenty Common whitetail dragonflies dart back and forth and play tag in the evening breeze. Their miniature relatives, Circumpolar bluets (Enallagma cyanigerum) line the first mile roadside. Returning down-canyon, a Pinacate beetle (Tenebrionidae eleodes) is running down the road. This is the first time that I have seen one fast motion, and usually they standing with their abdomens pointed into the air and ready to launch a chemical spray on predators. When running, its oversized rear legs make its large black abdomen comically waive back and forth. Since cars are banned from the canyon today, many bicyclists streak by not heeding caution for speed.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 21st, 1852, he notes that adder’s tongue, a fern, smells like snakes. He hears a cherry bird. He sees a field with snap-dragon and he notes that lupines have lost their blooms. He hears thunder when there are no clouds in the sky. He collects morning glories. On June 21st, 1854, he notes the many smells in the air, including may-flowers and cherry bark. He compares how a stream bank has grown from a low covering of brown in spring to a thicket of weeds in summer. He finds a small pond with two pout fish and a brood of small fry. He describes a sprout forest – a forest of small sprouts that grows from fallen trees. He sees wild roses. On June 21st, 1856, he sees night hawks, and on June 21st, 1860, he observes pine pollen covering the surface of water.

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On June 21st, 2000, Mayor Rocky Anderson held a press conference urging Congress to pass a bill that would designate a portion of offshore federal oil revenues to fund improvements in local parks like City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 21st, 1995, Rotary Club members repainted benches at Rotary Park in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 21st, 1994, a 19 year-old man was robbed at knife point by his passenger after they drove to City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 21st, 1934, Street Commissioner Harold B. Lee referred a proposal by former City Engineer S. Q. Cannon to employ road crews to widen City Creek Canyon Road to the Depression Federal Emergency Recovery Act Bureau (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 21st, 1912, City Parks Commissioner George D. Keyser proposed a circular scenic boulevard be created up City Creek, along 11th Avenue to Fort Douglas, then to Sugarhouse, and then returning to the City’s center (Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Telegram). The route would be lined with trees (id). On June 21st, 1906, City Engineer Kelsey reported that 100 miles of sidewalks will be completed in the City this year and another 25 miles of roads will be paved or graveled (Salt Lake Telegram). A minor $1,000 project will construct a bridge in City Creek Canyon (id).

May 28, 2017

May 27th

Will the Great Salt Lake Disappear? – Part II

5:00 p.m. Since city residents have driven to dispersed recreation parks far from the valley, the valley has emptied and there are few cars in the parking lot. In the pre-automobile era, they would come to the canyon during May holidays. In 1908, a newspaper reported that “thousands of people” spent the day strolling in City Creek (Salt Lake Herald, May 8, 1908). As car culture developed from the 1920s through end of the century, the canyon became less of a focus for city resident’s holiday outdoor recreation. An old postcard in my grandmother’s family album records how in 1927, my great-grandparents drove the new Lincoln Highway from Ohio to Salt Lake City in their new Ford Model-T, and then drove up the then open road to Sun Dial Peak and Lake Blanche at 9,500 feet. I like to nostalgically imagine that they also took a moment to drive up the canyon that I jog today.

But today, the canyon is almost empty. There are even fewer evening birds and along the first mile, I primarily hear the string of Warbling vireos interspersed with a few Song sparrows and American robins. The raptors are gone; butterflies are absent except for three. Woods rose that opened just a few days ago has begun to drop its leaves, but given the 100 rose plants along the first mile road, I believe more will open as the season progresses. Blossoms on the Solomon’s stars near mile 0.6 have grown from having only one or two blooms to having grown complex conical inflorescences. Arrowleaf balsamroot in the lower canyon has lost its blooms.

* * * *

Continuing population growth and their need for future water keeps the scenario that the Great Salt Lake might disappear completely in the next thirty years within the scope of reasonable probability. Salt Lake County grew from about 900,000 to 1.1 million from 2000 to 2014, or about twenty percent, and Utah County to the south grew from 370,000 to 575,000, or about fifty percent between 2000 and 2015. From this growth, Salt Lake valley and Utah County to the south are quickly exhausting the 250,000 new acre feet of water received in 2007 from the eastern transbasin Central Utah Project, and plans have been made to develop and transport another 250,000 acre feet of water per year from the Bear River basin to the north (Wurtsbaugh et al 2016; Utah Division of Water Resources 2004). Utah’s population is projected to reach 5.5 million by 2050. The lake is a substantial source of economic activity in northern Utah, 1.2 billion USD in 2010 (Bioeconomics 2010), and that also puts pressure on state managers to accommodate both industry, recreation and wildlife both to maintain and to decrease the lake’s level.

The changes in the Great Salt Lake and projections for increasing population and decreasing lake levels did not go unnoticed by government, and the competing interests of preserving the lake’s current level for wildlife and accommodating economic growth were expressed in conflicts between and within state agencies as proxies for public stakeholder interests. In 2008, former Governor John Huntsman formed the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council to study issues relating to the lake. The Council made recommendations for preserving the level of the lake (Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, 2012 and 2017). State wildlife managers conducted studies of bird populations dependent on the Great Salt Lake marshes and started to form a Great Salt Lake bird conservation strategy (Don 2002 and 2012). The Utah Department of Natural Resources developed a lake management plan, but the plan, which contains a detailed, well-thought out assessment, generally only specifies that further studies will be conducted if the lake falls below specified future set points (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015). As these events that favored preserving the lake for bird wildlife unfolded, the Utah Board of Water Resources moved forward with its plans to spend 2 billion to develop and withdraw 220,000 acre-feet of water from the Bear River that flows into the Great Salt Lake. In February 2016, Wurtsbaugh and colleagues issued their white paper warning that the area of the Great Salt Lake would decline by another 3 percent, or 30 square miles, and co-authors of the white paper included staff of the Utah Division of Water Resources, an agency supervised by the Utah Water Resources Board, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Utah Governor Gary Herbert formed a State Water Strategy Advisory Team that developed draft recommendations in September 2016 (Utah Water Strategy Advisory Team and Envision Utah, 2016). In January 2017, the Water Resources Board tabled its proposal to develop and withdraw water from the Bear River Basin after the private Utah Rivers Council demonstrated that the same amount of water could be developed from conservation at a much lower cost (Roth, January 23, 2017).

Much like the ongoing controversy between Salt Lake City and development interests over the Salt Lake valley watershed canyons (April 28th), the issue of whether the Great Salt Lake will remain as a viable stopping point for migratory birds traveling the eastern arm of the Pacific Flyway is one that will be revisited and re-fought periodically. The result may change in future, and then neotropical migrating birds seen in the canyon might decline dramatically and unexpectedly.

* * * *

On May 27th, 2012, the City has installed many speed limit and travel warning signs in City Creek Canyon to enforce an even-auto and odd-bicycle day policy (Salt Lake Tribune). One resident describes the number of regulatory signs as “overkill”, and another notes that the signs advising walkers to keep on the stream side of the road as “ineffectual” (id). (In 2017, infrequent walkers in the canyon, including many families pushing baby strollers, regularly ignore or are unaware of the policy of walkers keeping to the up-canyon right, or streamside of the road, and automobiles and bikers should keep the up-canyon left side of the road.) On May 27th, 1888, the Salt Lake Herald proposed that in addition to a proposed road up City Creek Canyon, that a boulevard be created from the Capitol to the creek and then along to 11th Avenue.

May 7, 2017

May 4th

Cultivars with Butterflies

3:00 p.m. The temperature switch has flipped and the canyon reaches into the seventies today. Several days of seventy and eighty degree weather is forecasted. This has an immediate effect on the canyon. The first one-third of a mile is almost fully leafed out, and along the road, there are about forty butterflies. They are usual cast of characters seen in the last two weeks, except more concentrated:

• Mourning cloak butterfly.

• White cabbage butterfly.

• Painted lady butterfly.

• American lady butterfly.

• White-lined sphinx moth.

• Zerene fritillary.

• Spring Azure.

• Common sulphur butterfly.

A new character, a Julia Orangetip butterfly (Anthocharis julia browningi), appears for the first time. Between mile 0.3 and mile 1.0, there are another twenty butterflies, but they are less densely distributed. There is a wall that holds them to the lower canyon; the temperature abruptly drops by ten to fifteen degrees at mile 0.3. Ants are active again, Stink Beetles are busy crossing the road, and the air refills with gnats. As this thermalcline rises up the canyon over the next few days, I am hopeful for these many changes will also move upcanyon and intensify with the warm air.

In the first one-third of a mile, I hear about twelve birds in the now leaf obscured forest with three different calls. In the lower one-third, the Gambel’s oaks are mostly filled out with small, still growing leaves, and between picnic sites 3 and 4, a flat area is now green with small red maple tree leaves. Across from picnic site 3, a bird loudly calls from a tree not twenty feet away, but still it is unseen. After some minutes, I discover it neatly hiding behind a natural cave of screening leaves. Through my monocular, one eye, with a grey eye streak bounded by white above and below, stares back at me across a slate back and white rump. It is an immature Black-throated gray warbler (Dendroica nigrescens). The density of these migratory birds also declines beyond the first one-third mile.

On a slope above the Pipeline Trail, I find several Death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) plants in bloom. It has a complex inflorescence with white flowers arranged in a conical shape. Chokeberries at mile 0.2 are in full white and yellow flowering bloom. Along the first-mile of road near the stream’s water, I look closely at the Solomon’s seal plants. I estimate that Solomon’s seals cover about one-fifth of the first mile on either side of the road, and for each foot of road, there are about twenty plants. This implies that there are about 20,000 Solomon’s seals in the first mile. Looking closely, I count exactly three plants that show their characteristic exploding-star blossoms.

Over the last few days, I have collected the location of flowering trees, mostly green crab apple and plum trees, along the first two miles of road. These are cultivars, planted for their fruit, between 1847 and about 1920. Their early, bright flowers, that risk freezing from Utah’s late season cold, distinguishes them from the native plants. Although I do not know the identity of each, I will use the list to revisit them later in the season to see which have fruited.

List of GPS Locations for Flowering Cultivar Trees for Miles 0.0 to 2.0 (N=17) (Apple and Plums) dated April 27 to May 2nd, 2017
• 40°47.463 N 111°52.730 W, Near flood retention pond, east side of road.

• 40°47.501 N 111°52.701 W, Below parking lot, east side.

• 40°47.501 N 111°52.701 W, Behind first line of trees, above parking lot, west side.

• 40°47.629 N 111°52.597 W, Near picnic site 1, east side.

• 40°47.666 N 111°52.573 W, Near picnic site 1, west side.

• 40°47.762 N 111°52.516 W, Near picnic site 1, west side.

• 40°47.777 N 111°52.511 W, East side.

• 40°47.811 N 111°52.440 W, East side.

• 40°47.826 N 111°52.434 W, West side.

• 40°47.863 N 111°52.424 W, East side.

• 40°47.899 N 111°52.401 W, East side, next to far stream bank.

• 40°48.071 N 111°52.329 W, East side.

• 40°48.123 N 111°52.324 W, East side.

• 40°48.283 N 111°51.949 W, West side.

• 40°48.387 N 111°51.356 W, East side, Pleasant Valley apple tree.

• 40°48.394 N 111°51.306 W, East side.

• 40°48.408 N 111°51.220 W, East side.

The parking lot is overflowing and there are about thirty people and bicyclists on the road. But they are spread out, and canyon still retains its quality of solitude. At the parking lot, there is bow hunter gearing up for theevening. I ask him what is in season, he enthusiastically responds “Wild turkeys!”. I have heard no turkeys in the canyon since last December, and this hunter may only find empty scrub oak thickets and the reward of exercise.

The stream still runs strong, and checking the SNOTEL station on Lookout Peak, I find that there is still thirty-five water equivalent inches of high-snow pack left, or more than ten inches more than average. By this time of year, the high-elevation pack begins a steep decline such that by June 1st, it is gone. This year, I feel it will last into the middle of June.

* * * *

On May 4th, 2011, National Weather Service Brian McInerney estimated using NWS computer models, a 50 percent probability that City Creek would flood (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 4th, 1920, a citizens committee met to urge the construction of a Brigham Young memorial bridge across City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Telegram). On May 4th, 1916, the City passed an ordinance, authored by Commissioner Heber M. Wells, to further protect the City Creek watershed (Salt Lake Tribune). Measured included prohibiting tethering a horse within 100 feet of the stream, building campfires, allowing stray animals, or speeding in an automobile (id). On May 4th, 1913, George M. Ottinger, former Water Superintendent and the first Fire Chief of Salt Lake City, reviewed his life. He constructed the reservoir at Pleasant Valley, and noted that it had a concrete lid because originally, the City planned to construct an electric power plant on top of the reservoir (Salt Lake Tribune). (Ottinger also was an amateur painter. His painting of Pleasant Valley and its reservoir is in the archives of the Utah Museum of Fine Art. He was also present at the last lynching in Salt Lake City in 1887.)

April 26, 2017

April 24th

Benefits of Nature – Part II – Restoration of Well-Being and Stress Reduction

4:00 p.m. Heavy rain falls all day, and I am running in a medium to light downfall. Even so, there are twelve runners and walkers on the road and enjoying a wet canyon. The stream is swollen. The rain brings out the colors of the tree trunks: the Box Elder, cottonwood and River birch all have slightly varying grades of gray. Under this light and the soaked trunks, orange lichens have a high contrast. The red trunks of the Red ozier dogwood bushes also starkly contrast with their two-inch sparse green leaves. In the winter, these red trunks contrasted again the white snow. The Gambel’s oaks all show signs of leafing through mile 0.2, but they slumber thereafter. All other trees through mile 1.2 have significant unfurled buds. Green begins to dominate the upper story of the forest along the road, and Solomon’s seal dominates the understory. I hear about eight unseen chickadees in the forest’s thickets.

* * * *

Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposes that the daily mental strain of modern life leads to cognitive burn-out and that a natural environment can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes. In 2012, Ruth and Paul Atchley at the University of Kansas and David Strayler at the University of Utah measured the creativity of 56 participants before they entered three-day Outbound Bound retreat in the wilderness were technological devices were banned (Atchley et al 2012). Post-wilderness participants had significantly higher scores on a creative problem-solving task as compared to pre-wilderness participants. This is a psychologist’s way of showing that vacations are necessary for restore ones mental functioning. In another small study, Howell and colleagues at Grant MacEwan University surveyed 452 undergraduate students regarding their degree of connectness to nature and their sense of emotional well-being (Howell et al 2011). They found that a person’s sense of connectedness with nature, measured using accepted psychological test scales, is positively associated with their sense of emotional well-being. But these are small studies involving non-randomly chosen populations.

* * * *

Research also indicates that exposure to nature reduces stress. Previously discussed studies involving a self-reported sense of well-being based on using accepted psychological test scales may be describing a subjective response to nature that has no physical counterpart. Such studies lack objective physiological, biochemical measurements. Thompson at the University of Edinburgh and colleagues measured outdoor activity and cortisol in salivary secretions over two days in 25 unemployed persons between the ages of 33 and 57 years of ago (Thompson et al 2012). They found a positive association between the slope of their daily cortisol levels (which naturally decline throughout the day), an increasing self-reported sense of well-being, and their increasing levels of activity in natural areas. Persistent low-levels of cortisol are indicative of continuing emotional stress, e.g. as in PTSD. Park at the Chiba University and colleagues used a portable electrocardiograph, a wearable blood pressure monitor, salivary swabs and psychological tests to measure changes in heart rate, ECG, and cortisol levels before and after exercise by 480 urban residents before and after traditional Japanese Shinrin-yoku nature walks in forests (Park et al 2010). Different types of electrocardiograph data is correlated with activity in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Park et al found that as compared to urban settings, walking in forests lowered cortisol levels, pulse rate, blood pressure, increases relaxation (as measured by parasympathetic nervous activity) and lowers the flight-or-flight response (as measured by sympathetic nervous activity). Alvarsson and colleagues found in laboratory experiments on forty university students that the sympathetic nervous system, measured using skin conduction, recovered faster to loud natural sounds as opposed to loud noise, e.g. urban noise (Alvarsson et al 2010). This suggests that interrupting living in an urban environment saturated with traffic noise over-stresses the fight-of-flight (symathetic nervous) response and that breaks in a natural setting might aid in restoring symathetic nervous system. Again, these are small studies involving non-randomly chosen populations.

* * * *

On April 24th, 1992, Beacon Elementary students held a one-mile hike in City Creek Canyon support of the creation of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (Salt Lake Tribune, Tribune April 25, 1992). According to Rick Reese of the Shoreline Trail association, progress is being made on agreements to start construction of the segment between the University of Utah and City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, April 25, 1992). Reese’s vision is to be able to “to walk from Emigration Canyon to Shriners Hospital without traffic or constraints[.]” (Reese was a legendary early rock climber who with Former Mayor Ted Wilson, explored many now classic rock climbing routes in the Wasatch. Reese went on to be an officer of the Great Yellowstone Coalition in Montana.) The Children’s Association to Revive the Earth will also plan to plant trees with Gov. Norman Bangerter on Arbor Day. On April 24th, 1908, the Police Department did a sweep of vagrants seeking to arrest one with experience handling explosives. A skilled prison laborer was needed to dynamite rocks during the construction of City Creek Canyon Road (Salt Lake Herald). R. B. Matthews, the City Creek Canyon water patrolman, impounded 13 stray cattle found in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 21st

Biophilia – Part III – Nature Fearing Studies

External Link to Image

Collage of City Creek Wildflowers, April 2017. Source: Author. Plant names are in text.

6:00 a.m. Rain showers including sleet fell last night and through the morning. From the city floor on the westside of the valley, I have a sweeping view up City Creek Canyon and along the mouths of the six other Salt Lake County Wasatch Front canyons. The rain falls in periodic sheets and microbursts that, with the morning light, color the canyon with curtains of delicate and varied gray tones. The canyon and the front are a series of paintings that rival the old Renaissance masters and Rubens.

4:00 p.m. As the front passes, the afternoon has given way to bright sunlight, but the canyon is still empty and full of solitude. Painted lady butterflies play tag, and one follows me up the road for about fifty feet, stops and then resumes its trailing track. It repeats this behavior four times before flying off. Two mallards streak down canyon skimming just above the trees and flying directly above the road. The road is their marker. The sleet has wilted all the long new 4 inch leaves of the horsechestnut trees. The Box Elder leaves are barely effected, and the Gambel’s oaks do not notice because they remain largely in their winter slumber. The water marks on Zen Rock show the stream is six lower than maximum notwithstanding last night’s downpour.

All is green and fresh and more spring wildflowers bloom both along the road and along the Pipeline Trail: Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum); Golden currant (Ribes aureum); Purple milkvetch (astragalus agrestis); Arrowleaf balsamroot; (Balsamorhiza sagittata); and western pink and blue-purple Longleaf phlox (Phlox longifolia Nutt.)

* * * *

The biophillia hypothesis has a binary opposite: biophobia. And the existence of biophia also can be proof of the existence of a genetic compulsion to be in and to like nature. Biophobic responses are adverse reactions to threats from the environment like spiders or snakes. Biophobic human reactions provide more definitive results because the body’s automatic response to negative experiences is more pronounced and easier to measure. Human negative responses can also be more easily conditioned in controlled experiments. Biophopia studies involve viewing pictures of threatening predators or poisonous animals while being conditioned with mild electric shock treatments. Psychologists then measure how quickly the body forgets the conditioning. If a person takes a comparatively longer period of time to forget the electro-shock conditioning, this is taken as evidence of a genetic predisposition for enhanced awareness of threats in a natural setting, genetic biophobia, and the biophilia hypothesis. Ulrich summarized many of the biophic studies through 1984 (Ulrich 1993):

* Involuntary physical responses to adverse conditioning when viewing natural threats such as spiders and snakes are more persistent than the response to neutral geometric shapes (Ulrich, 78).

* People exhibit stronger defense reactions when observing others’ fear reaction to threatening scenes like spiders and snakes versus neutral scenes (Ulrich, 79).

* After mild electroshock conditioning, a person’s autonomic body responses to spiders subliminal images of spiders and snakes embedded in films still takes a longer time to unlearn as compared to embedded images of non-threatening settings (Ulrich, 80).

* After mild electric shock conditioning, the autonomic body responses of persons viewing open natural settings are more persistent than when viewing low depth heavily forested scenes. This is interpreted as a genetic remnant of human evolution on the African savannas (Ulrich, 82-83).

There is an irony to these experiments, or its seems as I continue jogging down canyon. Showing a genetic basis of liking nature by shocking people with electric prods as they view photographs of nature in a controlled laboratory experiment seems far removed from the clean spring air and blooming flowers of today’s canyon. But these biophobic studies do lend more weight to the proof of a genetic basis for biophillia than the indirect proof of liking studies.

* * * *

On April 21st, 2006, snowpack in upper City Creek is 200 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 19, 2017

April 18th

Filed under: Bicyclist, Colors, Kingfisher, Plants, Starry solomon's seal, Unidentified — canopus56 @ 2:47 pm

Yellow and White Flowers

4:00 p.m. In the first mile, all trees that are not oaks seem to have bloomed, and perhaps ten Gambel’s oaks along the road have bloomed up to mile 0.3. It rained during the day, and the canyon is full of the smells not of winter earth but of green spring leaves. The wind and rain have parts of the road with rotting bunches of inflorescences. These are something of a mystery because they appear to be River birch blossoms, but the deposits on the road are about two hundred feet from the nearest River birch tree. There are no other potential sources nearby. Could the wind have carried them that far? A small roadside bush has opened quarter-inch yellow flowers, and they are tube shaped at the bottom but open into five radiating petals. The small corn-like herbs mentioned yesterday have opened tiny – just a few millimeter – white flowers also with five petals. Because of their size, these are easy to miss. You have to walk up to the stalks and closely look into the top most set of leaves. They are Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum). The entrance to the possible burrow mentioned yesterday has fresh dry dirt knocked out over rain soaked soil. Something lives there, and as I turn away from watching the burrow, a Rock squirrel darts across the road. Just before exiting the canyon, a lone Kingfisher is again sitting on the high powerlines stretched across the canyon, making its staccato calls. It is cold, windy, and wet, but I may be misinterpreting the Kingfisher’s raucous, annoying voice as complaining. This is its type of weather and to the bird’s ears, the song may be joyous.

The parking lot is nearly empty, and I realize how with the spring rush on the canyon, solitude had gone. Today, I hear only my own footsteps as jog along the road. As I exit the canyon, a hard rain starts to fall over a quiet, empty canyon. A few signs left along Bonneville Boulevard announce the upcoming April 22nd running of the Salt Lake City Marathon along 11th Avenue and down the lower City Creek Canyon to Memory Grove.

* * * *

On April 18th, 1920, the annual City Creek canyon running competition was rescheduled due to weather (Salt Lake Herald).

On April 18th, 2009, Mayor Ralph Becker placed the City’s proposed creation of firebreaks along City Creek Canyon Road on hold due to public opposition (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 18th, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram in an editorial approved of city plans to widen the road in City Creek Canyon by the use of prison labor. The Telegram stated, in part, that:

“City Creek is more than a motorists’ retreat . . . Few cities in the county are blessed with a natural park such as City Creek Canyon . . . It should not only prove a magnet for our own people, but an irresistible summer attraction for visitors and tourists passing through the city.”

On April 18, 1909, the Intermountain Republican noted that homes were filling up the Avenues from 11th Avenue to Brigham Street (South Temple), and the paper supported building a bridge across City Creek near Eight or Ninth Avenue. On April 18, 1908, city commissioners approved widening City Creek Road using prison labor (Intermountain Republican, Salt Lake Telegram). On April 18, 1900, the Salt Lake Herald described the use of prison labor in making the road up City Creek. The article is accompanied by racist caricatures of a Chinese prisoner and degrading depictions of older men no longer fit for employment who had been arrested for vagrancy. On April 18, 1876, part of the City Creek Road gave way under five young men walking in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

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