Friday, August 7, 2009

Get to know where you live

Building relationships and working together is what makes this valley such a special place to live.

Mary Austin Crofts, former executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District, is the executive director of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. She lives in Hailey.


We live in the present and worry about the future, but history blended with our own experience in the Wood River Valley gives us our sense of place. This is where we live.

Blaine County has a rich and colorful history. Most of its beauty, much of its culture and many of its traditions remain. It is what makes our valley unique.

So, what about those sheep and the bike path? I read the recent "messy sheep" letter to the editor with interest, as I spent most of my adult life working to create the Wood River Trails linking our communities.

I always look forward to telling people about the intense negotiations and the years of struggle piecing together the rights of way and funding to complete the trail system. It was a long and arduous task, although most wouldn't realize it,

One major partner in obtaining the right of way for our beloved bike path was John Faulkner and the Gooding Livestock Association. John is a longtime sheep rancher and he and the other sheep ranching families were incredibly gracious in allowing us to pave 10-12 feet of "stock driveway" in certain areas so the pathway could be completed.

Almost immediately after their gracious gift to the public, the complaints started. "What are these sheep doing on my bike path?" people would ask—or yell, depending on their degree of control.

So, we instituted a program that remains today. The ranchers call Blaine County Recreation District when they know they are coming through. BCRD staff comes as quickly as possible by truck or by bicycle and work with the herders to help keep the sheep off the asphalt, but still on their right of way. If the timing isn't just right, BCRD brings out the sweepers and blowers as quickly as possible to try to avoid the conflict. Sometimes it doesn't work perfectly.

Building relationships and working together is what makes this valley such a special place to live. Learning about and saving our Blaine County history is an important way to distinguish this special place from all the others.

Sheep and the bike path? Living history and the present working together. Without the sheep driveway, we wouldn't have a complete bike path. Nor, much of the wide open space corridor that remains today along Highway 75 designated as the stock driveway in the 1920s.

Spend some time with Wood River Valley history. Learn about the people who made this place what it is today. Listen to their stories.

And, next time the sheep come through just before your ride or walk, try to relax, wait a few minutes for the BCRD crews and thank the sheep for sharing.

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