Land gifts prove invaluable
Early in 2002, Lehi City officials recognized the need for parks in north Lehi. Ivory Homes had acquired nearly 400 acres of property from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had started the Ivory Ridge development just below the Alpine Highway (Timpanogos Highway). Homes started being built at lightning speed.
Then Lehi Mayor Ken Greenwood looked out of his back yard in north Lehi at the nearly 70 acres of empty space that belonged to the Thomas Peck family and had an idea. The “sand pit” as it was called by native Lehians, had been used by the Peck family in their excavation business. Greenwood envisioned the area with ball fields, open space, and maybe an amphitheater on the sloped hillsides.
Greenwood talked to Tony Peck, the oldest son of Thomas Peck, about the possibility of acquiring the land for a park. Greenwood’s vision was pleasing to the Peck family whose children and grandchildren were involved in sports. The negotiation process took almost three years. The Peck family agreed to sell the land to the city for $7.1 million. Ivory Homes had offered the family $9.2 million for the parcel of land at about the same time. The agreement was inked that Lehi City would pay the Peck family $300,000 per year for ten years. At the end of ten years, the City would pay $4.2 million.
Greenwood was defeated in his bid for re-election, and newly elected Mayor, Howard Johnson, continued to meet with Tony Peck to discuss the vision and plans for what became known as “Peck Park.” Then Lehi City Council Member Mark Johnson, a civil engineer, drew plans for a mini-golf course and a leisure park. The plans were never used because of disagreement about what should be done with the land by City Council members and City officials. Several residents who lived near the area were apprehensive about traffic that would be generated by a tournament quality softball/baseball facility which was stipulated in the agreement between Lehi City and the Pecks. The property has been mired in controversy ever since and as such has not been developed.
The 70 acres of land has remained vacant until recently when the Arsenal Soccer organization offered to put in the infrastructure and seed 20 acres for use as a soccer facility 70% of the time, with the City having access the other 30% of the time. The City Council approved the agreement with Arsenal several months ago. When plans for the soccer fields were recently brought to the Lehi City Planning Commission, the Peck family spoke in opposition to the plans. It was brought to the attention of the Planning Commission that the agreement negotiated and signed by Mayor Greenwood and by Lehi City Council was not being honored. The Planning Commission tabled the Arsenal soccer plans until the July 13 meeting.
History of larger park gifts of land and development in Lehi
Shortage of large park facilities has been a problem for Lehi residents and officials since early in Lehi’s history. Ira D. Wines, a former resident of Indiana, had left the Midwest to become a Lehi resident. He met and married his beloved wife, Margaret, and started his family in Lehi. Even though he eventually left Lehi, his love for the community continued. To honor the community and his wife, he gave Lehi City a full five-acre block of land in the center of town to be used as a park and asked that it be named Margaret Wines Park. In 1908, a town meeting was held in the Lehi Tabernacle where Lehi citizens unanimously agreed to accept this gift. The only stipulation was the City was to maintain the park for a period of ten years after which the City would be given clear title to the park.
According to a history of Lehi published in 1950 by the Lehi Centennial Committee, after Wines offered the land it sat undeveloped for six years. In 1914 the City had to verify with Wines that the offered land was still available. The city officials were assured it was. After a set of plans was agreed upon, the park was landscaped, but the controversy continued as the City was not sure if finances were available to maintain the park. A caretaker was hired, and the lawns were cut, and trees were pruned. There was often a shortage of water, but the park became a place where locals and their families could gather. A bandstand was even constructed to enjoy entertainment on summer evenings. It took ten years for the city to beautify the gift freely given by the Wines family. Today, Wines Park is a hub of activity and the central gathering place for local celebrations.
Another philanthropic land gift was given to Lehi City in 2002. Patterson Construction owned approximately 17 acres on 700 South and 1300 West. They offered to give the land to the City to be used as a park. The gift was approved by the City Council in a 3-2 vote. Some council members felt the gift would create advantages for the development group and voted against acceptance of the gift. This park is now called the Lehi City Sports Complex.
Former Mayor Ken Greenwood said, “I sat down with some local businessmen and told them, ‘We need help.’” The city had acquired a small development grant written by Derek Leavitt, then an intern with the City, for $75,000, and that was all the money the City had budgeted to develop the park. City engineers drew up the plans.
Many local businesses provided work gratis for the Sports Complex. Greenwood said members of the Peck family provided infrastructure work free of charge. Lehi native John Hadfield graded the land. Dwayne Sorenson and his City crew installed the sprinkling system. Joel Woods built the restrooms and horseshoe pit and Ed Collins, Lehi City Administrator at the time, oversaw the project. Greenwood said, “There was ingenuity and collaboration by a lot of ‘the good ole boys’ in Lehi. The entire project did not cost the citizens of Lehi a dime.”
The Lehi City Sports Complex is now used almost daily, as softball, soccer, and baseball teams play all year long. This park has been an invaluable asset to Lehi because of the unselfishness and vision of local business owners and Lehi City leaders.