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Murray Journal

Resident proposes repurposing utility land for a future Murray cemetery

Dec 01, 2023 11:27AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Vast swaths of Murray land come under Rocky Mountain Power’s lines. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

Slicing through Murray City, a patch of land straddles the realms of possibility and bureaucracy. Here, under the watchful eye of Rocky Mountain Power, lies a corridor brimming with untapped potential. Enter Darin Bird's brainchild: a vision to metamorphose this dormant stretch into a vibrant cemetery and community haven.

Darin Bird, who is at the heart of this proposal is a former Deputy Director at the Utah Department of Natural Resources and a 24-year resident of Murray. Bird, leveraging his rich background in land management, has put forth a plan to repurpose a swath of land currently under the utility easement of Rocky Mountain Power, envisioning it as a new cemetery and green space for the city.

Bird’s connection to this land is deeply personal. As he explains, “This is a large swath that runs the entire length of Murray that I drive by several times a week.” His proposal is not just about finding a new use for the land but also about creating a lasting benefit for the community. He sees the potential for this underutilized space to serve a greater purpose, saying, “After many years at a land management agency, it is second nature to always be thinking about creative opportunities for land use and partnerships.”

The inspiration for the cemetery came from a practical need. Murray’s existing cemetery is nearly full, and Bird was aware of this pressing issue. He said he considered the costs and benefits, noting, “I would assume that there is a fairly considerable cost to Rocky Mountain for weed control to reduce the danger of wildfires along the corridor. A cemetery, if designed correctly, could adhere to the utility needs for Rocky Mountain while creating a new green space and cemetery for the city.”

Bird’s idea, however, faces significant challenges, primarily stemming from the fact that the land is under the control of Rocky Mountain Power. He acknowledges this hurdle, stating, “Rocky Mountain has no obligation to work with the city on this idea. They hold all of the cards and are well within their rights to deny any request.”

Despite these obstacles, Murray City has a history of successful collaboration with Rocky Mountain Power. Doug Hill, Chief Administrative Officer in the Murray City Mayor’s Office, highlights past achievements: “The city does have a lease agreement with RMP for the use of their right-of-way at the golf course, Willow Pond Park, and the Jordan River Parkway trail system.” He also notes that while the city previously used RMP’s property without a fee, a change occurred about ten years ago, with the city now paying approximately $17,000 annually to RMP.

David Eskelsen, a spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Power and PacifiCorp, provides further insight into the utility company’s relationship with Murray City. Eskelsen details the company’s existing agreements with the city, which include easements for city parks and leases for golf course land. According to Eskelsen, these arrangements demonstrate a history of collaborative land use and mutual benefit.

Eskelsen also outlines the company's approach to public use of their land, stating, “The company maintains agreements with several cities including Murray for public facilities that are compatible with a power line corridor. These uses must be approved by Rocky Mountain Power and allow for the 10-foot clearance requirements and physical access needs of the utility for maintenance and repair at any time as needs arise.”

Safety is a paramount concern for Rocky Mountain Power, as Eskelsen explains. He emphasizes that all facilities comply with the National Electric Safety Code and are maintained in accordance with Utah utility regulations to provide safe, reliable electric service. The utility company is required to ensure safe distances from power lines and provide for maintenance access, which would be key considerations in any new development of the land.

Bird envisions a design for the proposed cemetery that respects both the aesthetic and functional requirements of the space. He suggests, “Perhaps a wide roadway including parking could be installed through the center of the corridor allowing for utility access to power lines while placing graves with flat, in-ground, headstones outside of the roadway with grass and some landscaping.” According to Bird, this design proposal indicates a thoughtful approach to balancing utility needs with the creation of a serene and functional community space.

Community response to Bird’s idea is another critical factor. Bird himself is optimistic, saying, “I for one, would love to live next to a cemetery. It would be a quiet neighbor, who keeps up with their landscaping, and an area that is only busy on Memorial Day weekend or briefly for graveside services.” He also believes that such a development would reduce the wildfire danger in the area, providing an additional benefit to residents living nearby.

Moving forward with this proposal, Bird recognizes the importance of city leadership. He expresses confidence in the city's management, stating, “I trust the judgement of Mayor Hales and his staff. It is easy for me to sit on the sidelines and offer ideas, but they have the benefit of seeing the bigger picture.”

“Over my years with the city, there have been numerous citizen suggestions regarding what to do with the Rocky Mountain Power right-of-way.  Soccer fields, dog parks, skate parks to name a few.  However, there have been no serious discussions with RMP about leasing their property for these purposes nor are there any current plans,” Hill said.

“I feel comfortable in approaching my city council member, Pam Cotter or Mayor Hales. They are both friendly and open to new ideas,” Bird said. λ