Though Patriot Park, a 30-acre, baseball and military-themed sports park, is the most recent addition to the city of Saratoga Springs’ outdoor recreation amenities, it’s far from the only uniquely themed park to be constructed in the area in recent years.
After roughly a decade of planning, two years of work and construction made possible by funding from six years of impact fee revenue and grant awards, Shay Park, a lively, railroad-themed community park and playground, became a reality for area residents.
“It’s a wish come true," said Mike Hansen in an interview with the Daily Herald in regard to the park’s opening at 516 W. Aspen Hills Blvd. in Saratoga Springs. Hansen, a spokesman for the Utah Live Steamers Railroad Club, was referring not just to the creatively and aptly themed park, but also to the green light granted to the club by the city, which allowed for the construction of 7.5-inch gauge rail and a 1.6-in scale train steamer engine and cars. The park now boasts not only train-themed playground equipment but also a double loop track that is utilized monthly May-October for public train rides.
But an actual, working, miniature locomotive isn’t the only thing Shay Park offers the community. Here are 10 interesting and unique things about the local amenity worth knowing about!
— By Kari Kenner, Daily Herald
A decade-long commitment
As mentioned, it was 10 years of planning that finally led to the fruition of Shay Park in Saratoga Springs, the fifth regional park at the time. Between funding, gaining access to the land, grading and installing, there were plenty of obstacles to navigate, though the end result was a fun community park that was able to be entirely funded for full completion, rather than in phases.
A nod to the past
The theme of Shay Park is a clear nod to the past use of the area, and of course the importance of the railroad in Utah and Utah County in particular.
“A lot of these communities were built because of the railroad,” Mike Hansen said in another interview with the Daily Herald. “At one point, you could get on a train here and go anywhere in the country.”
The Salt Lake and Western Railway once crossed directly through the area where Shay Park was constructed, with the railroad’s sloping grade being utilized as a walking path with a bridge that runs above model-railway tracks.
Much of the playground equipment is shaped like a train while the park’s name itself also honors the area’s roots: it was steam-powered Shay locomotives that were often found running along the Salt Lake and Western Railway.
The Utah Live Steamers Railroad Club was established in 2007, bringing together a group of model-railroad enthusiasts based in Utah County. Their shared love of trains also extended to a goal of creating a train-themed park in the area, so it’s safe to say when they learned of Saratoga Springs’ Shay Park, which was currently under construction, it didn’t take long for a meeting to be set between the club and city officials.
Understanding the value and novelty of such a resource, the city gave the go-ahead for a small train system to be constructed for kids and adults to ride. It was with the help, sacrifice and donations of club members, businesses and the community that the railway was funded, bringing an actual train to the train-themed park once a month, with remaining rides this year available to the public from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 17, Sept. 21 and Oct. 19. All aboard!
Wide open spaces
Though Shay Park’s playground is just one-third of an acre, the park itself takes up roughly 10 to 12 acres, offering not only a fun area for kids to play, but plenty of green space, with amenities including a large pavilion, drinking fountain, benches, railway station-themed seasonal restrooms, and of course, ample grassy fields for running, playing and sports.
On the road again
Though train rides are a clear highlight of Shay Park, the fun walkways in and around it are also a bonus, with an entrance that navigates visitors under a railway bridge, railroad crossing signs marking the intersection of tracks with yet another walking area, and finally, a walking bridge that offers great views from above the park’s entrance.
Though the park’s wood chip turf make it not the most friendly space for wheelchairs, it does offer quite a few areas that are adapted for accessibility by individuals with special needs, including large, belted swings and a metal entrance bridge that runs from the sidewalk into one of the main featured areas of the playground. It’s thoughtful additions like that that create spaces where everyone can play together.
Sticking to the theme
Not only does the playground offer multiple toys and play structures, but it’s clearly centered on the railroad theme, with the biggest piece of equipment designed to look like a large train engine with cars. The area boasts multiple slides with places to climb, steer and enjoy imaginative play while enjoying a little bit of cover from the warm summer sun.
Places to climb
Large structures designed to look like stone connect twisted pieces of rope to look like a curving train track in one corner of the park, offering a great place for kids to climb, adventure and play. The tracks are situated right next to the other main play structure, which allows kids the chance to climb up vertical logs or even a unique rock wall for even more ways to climb and play.
Spin to win
For kids wanting to step away from the play structures, the park also offers a few unique takes on spinning toys, from a pair of individual spinning seats to a small round spinning base in the style of a merry-go-round, with long ropes leading to the top of the structure offering places to stand, sit, climb or propel the toy.
Attention to detail
Probably the most prominent thing about Shay Park is the attention to detail, from the carefully constructed train structure to the sculpted rocks that create caves and house minute details such as decorative bugs, plants and animals. Even the unique conveyor belt-style slide adds depth to the play area, with platforms giving dimension and careful spacing making room for more children without causing overcrowding. Though smaller in size than many of the more popular parks in Utah County, this gem more than makes up for it with quality and creativity.