Sugar House Park plans to go forward with dredging project after animals have become sick and died

A sign on the edge of the pond at Sugar House Park warns visitors about avian botulism, a toxin that has been found in the water. Some birds have died and dogs have become sick after ingesting the water, leading Sugar House residents to take their pets elsewhere. Photo by Marcus Dahle.

A sign on the edge of the pond at Sugar House Park warns visitors about avian botulism, a toxin that has been found in the water. Some birds have died and dogs have become sick after ingesting the water, leading Sugar House residents to take their pets elsewhere. Photo by Marcus Dahle.

Some Sugar House residents said they won't walk their dogs in Sugar House Park anymore after numerous birds have died and dogs have become sick from the pond water.

Now, community members said they hope a $500,000 dredging project, which passed in November 2016 and is expected to move forward at the end of this year, will help improve the park's water quality.

Dredging consists of the removal of sediments and debris at the bottom of a pond or lake. It helps prevent the spread of water contaminants like avian botulism, a toxin that's harmful to people and animals when ingested.

Ben Browning, a Sugar House resident, said he'd rather walk his dogs to another park than take the risks associated with avian botulism.

"I take my dogs to Tanner Park," he said. "It's close by and I don't have to worry about my dogs getting sick."

However, Browning said he plans to return once the dredging project is completed.

"Currently, the pond is kind of an eye-sore," he said. "But if they clean the pond, I'll start walking my dogs there."

Wayne Johnson, associate division director of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, said the dredging project will improve the overall well-being of Sugar House Park.

“The pond hasn’t been dredged in over 20 years,” he said. “It will help with issues of health by eliminating avian botulism and also will help with the overall look of the park.”

Johnson estimated that the dredging process will take around 7 feet of debris out from the bed of the pond and will help address the bad smells that come from the pond during the warmer months as a result of algae bloom.

Though Johnson described many benefits to the dredging project, the main concern for many visitors at Sugar House Park remains the safety of their animals.

“I walk my dog at the park because I live close by, and the park as a whole is beautiful,” said Caitlin Brady, a Sugar House resident who said she frequents the park with her dog. “But the pond is always having issues with birds or dogs getting sick because the water is contaminated, so I’m worried about my dog going close to the water.”

Brady said she stays away from taking her dog to the park in the summer for that reason but said she hopes the dredging project "will make the park a lot better as a whole."

Mary Denison, a junior at Westminster, said she'll remain cautious to return to the park even after the dredging project is completed.   

"I feel like I would still be hesitant just because I wouldn't know if it still had bacteria or not," she said.

Though she said she's unsure about the health impact dredging will have, Denison said she still wants to see the project go forward.

"I want them to do it to improve safety and to help the overall feel of the park,” she said.