SALT LAKE CITY — Flying trapeze is the newest addition to Salt Lake City's crime fighting team.
After strapping on a harness and belay device, each aspiring trapeze artist makes their way up a somewhat wobbly ladder to a metal platform about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. An instructor anchors themselves, grabs onto the back of the harness and helps the trapezist catch the bar.
Twenty-five feet above the ground, the student leans their body over the platform, jumps and flies.
A trapeze rig stands on the south side of Pioneer Park and will remain there as long as weather permits. The Utah Flying Trapeze team has been running operations at the park for a few weeks and has seen an overwhelming response from community members of all ages and skill levels.
The trapeze structure stands about 30 feet high inside a chain-link fenced area, with the platform at 24 feet high and a catch net about 7 feet off the ground. Across the park sits the stage for Thursday's Twilight Concert; and to the north, chalk art of smiley faces and flowers grace the sidewalk, courtesy of Youth City's teens.
These are all part of Salt Lake City's efforts to bring productive activities into the park, driving out those who would prey on vulnerable homeless populations and bring criminal activity into the area, city spokesman Art Raymond said.
"The more positive use energy we have going down here, it naturally disperses criminal activity and negative use," Raymond said.
So far, the newly formed Salt Lake police Metro Support Bureau has seen an abatement in crime near the park, including on 500 West, Salt Lake Police Lt. Rich Brede said.
Brede and community partners are working together "to make sure that we are getting the persons that need services connected with those services and so that we can have legitimate use here that will in essence fill a void and drive criminal activity out of the area," he said.
Partners include city, social service, economic development and business officials. They are working to create opportunities for businesses such as Utah Flying Trapeze and hoping that will attract more positive growth in the Pioneer Park neighborhood.
"This isn't an end point. Utah Flying Trapeze isn't a period. It's just an addition, and we will continue to be looking for great stuff like this," Raymond said.
Trapezists are visible from 400 South, which community partners hope will draw people in to visit and play at the park.
"I think (the trapeze) really ties it all in. (It) really makes the park a more destination kind of park, which is what we want. We've been kind of working toward that for a while," said Tara Olson, project analyst for Salt Lake City Public Services, who tried the trapeze for the first time Wednesday.
It is definitely a destination for Dennis Ford, who visited Utah's capital city with his wife from Scottsdale, Arizona, to fly on the trapeze for three days.
"This is absolutely the coolest thing ever," Ford said. "It's wicked good fun."
Utah Flying Trapeze offers two-hour classes 6-8 p.m. weekdays for $50; and 2:30-4:30 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays for $57. It also offers $5 for a swing during the farmers market. The company also accommodates private events.
All ages and athletic types are welcome. For more information, visit utahtrapeze.com.