Mayors column: Bidding farewell to Geneva Steel site 01

An aerial view of the Geneva Steel site in Vineyard.

We start to come full circle as we say farewell to the old Geneva Steel site.

The land was once known for its natural beauty, which brought in exciting entertainment and life to the area.

It evolved from farm lands and resort life into a steel plant to help in time of war. It is now being cleaned up, restoring the area to a clean state to welcome in a beautiful city center, a place of higher education, new jobs, recreation and a place to call home.

Geneva Steel which provided jobs and gave security to our great valley and communities is waving its final flag this year in Vineyard as the Redevelopment Agency implemented $40 million dollars into the clean-up of the site.

The transfiguration has already begun, and over the next several months, remnants of what was there will only be found in historical documents and landmarks. The rail spur along Geneva Road will move to the path of the FrontRunner that will carry people to the heart of our downtown and the new Vineyard FrontRunner station. Once again, Vineyard will be known for its beautiful white sand lakeshore beaches, community, jobs, incredible recreation spaces and well-planned transit and transportation paths.

In this amazing story of renewal, we are incredibly excited about Vineyard having approximately 1,750 acres with 1.5 miles of lake frontage. An incredible city center is underway. This is a master-planned project that Vineyard community desires development to be focused on mixed-use centers with greater access to transit, jobs, walkable neighborhoods where people can live, work, enjoy entertainment, shop and recreate. This district is home to a regional commercial zone along Geneva Road, along with The Forge, a mixed-use planned urban development project.

Vineyard Road, now known as Geneva Road, once a two-wheel wagon road, was the main north/south artery through Vineyard. The Union Pacific Railroad came into the area in 1873, followed by the Denver and Rio Grande (a narrow-gauge rail) in 1881 and 1882.

For many decades thereafter, these railroads served to transport milk and agricultural products to producing plants and urban markets. The rails would also occasionally transport people traveling through the area and regularly brought visitors from the north and south to the very popular Geneva Resort, located on the northeastern shores of Utah Lake. In 1914, the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad started to provide regular passenger connections from Payson to Salt Lake City.

Geneva Resort — now the Lindon Marina — was one of the most popular recreation and entertainment areas in Utah, boasting a 2 1⁄2 story hotel, cabins, dance pavilions, food concessions, a pristine clear-water lake beach, two heated swimming pools, a lake-front pier, diving platform, picnic areas and playing fields. Business in Vineyard was largely based on the agricultural economy flourishing in the Utah Valley — processing and shipping plants for fruit, berries and vegetables. There was even a sugar beet dump, a depot to process milk from the numerous dairy farms in the area, two turkey ranches, a feed mill and a couple of country stores.

As World War II began, the federal government embarked on an aggressive program to enlarge its steel manufacturing capabilities in locations well inland that would be more protected from the possibility of enemy attack. Finding Vineyard to be an ideal location because of its abundant water supply, open land area, plentiful labor and two key rail lines crossing the valley, the government appropriated approximately 1,600 acres to build a productive steel manufacturing enterprise. This action displaced more than 40% of the Vineyard population, about 40 farming families.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced plans in 1941 to invite the Columbia Steel Co., already with an active iron manufacturing plant in Utah County, to build a large steel plant in Vineyard. The plant was named after the Geneva Resort – now the Lindon Marina. The new Geneva plant engaged about 100 subcontractors and eventually employed 11,000 workers. February 1943 marked the production of the first steel from the large plant.

In 1946, U.S. Steel purchased the plant, and Geneva Steel, a subsidiary, converted it to meet peacetime needs for steel production for West Coast markets providing substantial jobs in the area. Geneva Steel operations continued more than 50 years of steel production in Vineyard.

In May 1989, the Utah lieutenant governor and the Utah County Commission approved the incorporation of Vineyard.

While an exciting and somewhat uncertain future lay ahead, a tax base needed to be established with reliable sources of revenue, and zoning and regulations for new development and increased population had to be considered.

About 140 years after the first pioneers entered this valley, the Vineyard community became an incorporated town and then later a recognized city, continuing to grow and become a refuge for residents wanting much of what the original founders wanted — a place to call their own in a location surrounded by the rich natural beauties and conveniences of the Utah Valley.

Today, after a long stint of Vineyard being filled with only 150 people, the growth they knew would come has arrived. In the last year, 5,000 new residents have joined our well-planned community to a place they call home.