Friday, September 25, 2009

Reclaim the river

Not long ago, a planning consultant hired to advise Ketchum pointed out that even though the Big Wood River runs through it, anyone who visits might never know the city sits on a river.

He was shockingly correct.

Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue have all lost their connections to the river.

The river is easily ignored.

Haileys' Hop Porter Park, for example, is located riverside. Yet, it's more likely than not that someone can use the park unaware that the river is near. Users of Ketchum's Rotary Park discover only by accident that it lies on the river.

The cities post no signs to guide visitors or residents to the river or to educate them about it.

The Wood River Valley celebrates its history with Wagon Days and Trailing of the Sheep with no reference to the river.

There are no River Days or Trout Days or River Walks. The Rotary Duck Race is as close as we get to a river celebration.

The river is treated as an obstacle, spanned with bridges, rip-rapped for flood control, or feared as an attraction for the deer, elk and moose that are hazards when they cross busy state Highway 75.

The cities need to reconnect with the river. They should reclaim it by maintaining existing public access points and guiding people to them with maps and signs.

Business and outdoor groups should create river events to acquaint kids and adults with the fish, wildlife and plants the river supports.

A strong river connection will enhance the quality of life here and leave indelible memories with visitors whose continuing patronage is essential to maintain a healthy local economy.

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