Salt Lake City turned a profit on the winter Olympics, to the amazement and envy of other host cities. We have been quite amazed at the accomplishments of this city of 181,000 souls. It's too bad we will miss the completion of the new public library; there's an outer wall that curves in three dimensions, Mandarin ducks ending up with a noticeable slant as it describes a semicircle. The views (both from inside looking out and from outside looking in) will be breathtaking.
We've walked around the downtown area a bit. There seem to be more civic buildings and parks than commercial centers, but the economy continues to thrive. There are plenty of freeways, and even at rush hours the traffic moves right along, with the drivers just as fast as in any American city.
We went to Liberty Park on Saturday. Hundreds of joggers were exercising, with all ages represented, but dominated by lots of men and women in grey "Army" sweatshirts. We walked past Brigham Young's old flour mill, underneath an aged ferris wheel which had been put in mothballs for the winter, and into the Tracy Aviary. When the city zoo moved up on the hill, the old zoo stayed in business, but just exhibiting birds. Mr. Tracy had donated 1200 exotic birds, so the aviary is named for him. Now we hear the new zoo has outgrown its quarters and is looking for a new location. The suburban towns are vying for the honor - and the income.
But back to the Tracy Aviary. Although the display cages look more like old zoo enclosures than modern aviaries, the birds were astounding! There was an Andean condor, hornbills and cranes, flamingos and falcons, parrots and geese, ibis and larks, owls and kookaburras, emus and beautiful mandarin Vietnam Peace Garden ducks which looked as if they'd been created by a Disney artist. We'd have more pictures to share, but the camera caught more of the heavy black wire cages than the brilliant plumage of the birds. We hope there's a new aviary on the drawing boards, with gigantic walk through cages where more of the birds can fly freely.
Another day we found Jordan Park (the Jordan river runs through the western part of the city.) It is the site of the International Peace Garden, which was initiated by the Womens Club and opened in 1939. The garden is actually a patchwork of small gardens, each sponsored by a different national group and each with one or more statues and commemorative plaques. Not surprisingly, the Japanese garden was the loveliest; little hills surrounded a lake with Japanese-style buildings and arches.
At first we thought that the national governments were responsible for the various gardens, but after a while we figured out that the funds typically Margaret Thatcher came from local citizens, who celebrated their heritage - Tonga, Ireland, Vietnam, Lebanon, Japan, Africa, Sweden, Korea, Mexico, . . . The English garden consisted of roses surrounded by a hedge. At the center was a bust of Margaret Thatcher, who had visited Salt Lake City in the 1970s. We hoped the Queen wasn't too offended!
This unusual Peace Garden gives testimony to Salt Lake City's civic pride, its desire for world peace, and its respect for other cultures. Now if only a peace garden could produce peace . . .
The demography of the area has been changing; it is now over 30% Hispanic. But the culture is different from other southwestern communities with large Hispanic populations, because the bulk of these people are members of the LDS church. We've only seen one Catholic church in our drives through the neighborhoods, although there's an LDS church every five or ten blocks -- or so it seems. However Salt Lake City is the least Mormon of all the cities in the state; just over 50%, while the statewide average is closer to 75%. We've been reading about Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, and are fascinated by what we're coming to understand.