Utah's Children's Museum-a derelict reminder of days gone byEvery city has its secrets, its sore spots, the places where few deign to go without incentive.

In some ways, I suspect Warm Springs Park is one of those places in Salt Lake City. It’s a fantasy for urban decay nerds; and a playground of a park for earth crunchers.

Detail on the door of Utah's Children Museum

The half-wild slopes of the park are home to temporary shelters made from oak brush, tarps, blankets and sleeping bags. The park is wild, overgrown sage and brush creep east to Ensign Downs. The neighborhood where mansions rest in neatly trimmed sweeps of green lawn. The going price is $500,000 for one of the more modest homes on the hill. Mansions look over the valley; the homeless too close to the basement to be seen.

Broken windows at the Utah's Children Museum

Warm Springs Park is little used; it appears unwanted.

The view north from Salt Lake City's Warm Springs Park.

Refineries process oil and belch black smoke into the sky to the north and west. Looking south the city unfolds its industrial arm, just enough west for factories, just enough east for public schools. Downtown lies to the south and east, the tallest buildings jut up from the valley floor, the dome of the State Capitol just visible over the ridge. The cityscape is a number by number guide to wealth in this narrow valley.

At the center of the park is an old decrepit Spanish style building. It was a Children’s Museum until 1993. The locked doors, chipped paint and rotted stucco a reminder of the public bath houses of the 1920s. Locals once bathed in the sulphurous warm springs seeping underground. The old spring seeps through the north end of the park. The smell of the water is masked now by the traffic on old Highway 89.

Salt Lake City from Warm Springs Park

There is a small playground at the south end and a soccer field where I’ve seen more dogs playing fetch than children playing games. It’s an unusual park for a city that tries so hard to remain pristine.

Address and hours:
Salt Lake City’s Warm Springs Park
(Children’s Museum)
300 West 900 North
8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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