a new Hailey park?
City, Land Trust
consider joint effort
Express Staff Writer
the Hailey Public Works Department and the non-profit Wood River Land
Trust are trying to determine whether they can proceed with a joint
project to convert a defunct sewage-treatment facility in West Hailey
into a public park.
proposed restoration of the city’s decommissioned Riverside Treatment
Plant was endorsed by the Hailey City Council last winter, but the
project is currently tabled, mired in a mix of conflicting interests in
how the sensitively located site should look and function.
most recent plan is on hold until we can exactly determine what we can
do there," Hailey Public Works manager Ray Hyde said last week.
is the fate of an approximately four-acre property on the west bank of
the Big Wood River, adjacent to Hailey’s Heagle Park and Della View
property lies south of the city’s Lion’s Park, which is already the
site of cooperative efforts by the land trust and the city to restore
degraded areas in and around the Big Wood River.
parties last winter proposed the work along the river as a two-part plan—collectively
called the Hailey Greenway Project—to restore a continuous corridor of
riparian areas between Lion’s Park and the Riverside Treatment Plant.
The state Department of Environmental Quality granted the parties
$195,000 for the project, and the City of Hailey subsequently agreed to
contribute an additional $159,000 of so-called "in-kind"
matching funds, essentially committing to provide equipment and staff
but no public money.
Lion’s Park project continues to proceed with the support of city,
county and various other state and federal agencies that hold an
interest in the river, the proposed restoration of the sewer plant has
encountered numerous stumbling blocks—perhaps jeopardizing some or all
of the grant money.
Frenzl, stewardship coordinator for the Wood River Land Trust and a
leading proponent of the project, said conditions of the grant require
efforts to improve the quality of river water and groundwater at both
focal points, Lion’s Park and the sewer plant.
we don’t do the sewer-site project, we probably can’t go forward
with the Lion’s Park project," he said.
could not simply fill in the depression left at the sewer site with soil
and sod and remain eligible to keep the grant money, he noted. In
addition, because the area lies in a floodplain, any design for the
restoration of the sewer plant must include provisions to mitigate
flooding in high water years.
Frenzl initially proposed to city council members that the sewer plant
site be converted into a public park that included a deep-water pond
linked to the river, plus access for fishermen and other members of the
public. The project was proposed to emulate a successful riverside
restoration project at Hulen Meadows, north of Ketchum.
after the council endorsed the plan, Hyde and Frenzl discovered that
state Fish and Game opposed the idea of linking a pond to the Big Wood
River. The city would likely be forced to trade some of its water rights
to offset any loss—perceived or real—that would result from river
water being diverted into the restored area.
myriad of legal complications with the proposed pond design, Hyde and
Frenzl last month put forth a significantly altered plan for the
Riverside Plant, intended to restore the site to its natural state while
also meeting conditions of the grant and interests of agencies.
design called for converting the area to a seasonal pond and wetlands
that would be fed by groundwater only. The pond would likely be the site
of some recreation, but would fluctuate in depth, and be unusable by the
general public part of the year.
members hearing the new plan on Sept. 23 firmly opposed the concept, and
tabled the proposal while asking Hyde and Frenzl to research other
hate surprises," Councilman Don Keirn said at the meeting. "I
didn’t vote for a big hole in the ground."
week said he is actively working to get a final determination as to
whether the city could implement a plan to connect a pond to the river
without giving up any significant water rights or encountering
opposition from state Fish and Game.
the city has already spent nearly $200,000 of "in-kind" funds
on the Hailey Greenway Project, and will make every effort to implement
a plan to restore the sewer-plant site within parameters of the DEQ
do have some grave concerns," he said. "We could be on the
line for a lot of money."
it may be another six to eight weeks before the city determines what
would be the best course of action, and will then present his findings
to council members.