Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Plants instead of prisoners?

County contemplates new use for old jail site

Express Staff Writer

The spot where inmates once ate their meals could soon be providing meals for others, as the site of the old Blaine County Jail and sheriff's office in central Hailey could soon be home to sprouting vegetables instead of iron bars.

Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman, along with a number of volunteers from organizations from throughout the county, has proposed a project that would see a community garden in the now vacant 10,000-square-foot lot.

At a regular commission meeting Monday at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey, Nathan Welch, executive director of Citizens for Smart Growth, and Keri York, stewardship coordinator for the Wood River Land Trust, presented a preliminary outline for the project, which could see work on the ground as early as May.

"This could be a great use of a key piece of property in Hailey until the time comes somewhere in the future when the county will need more office space," Bowman said in a press release Monday. "I really like the idea of reaching out to the community and seeing what they want for this open space."

Welch said an ad hoc committee, which includes members of the Hunger Coalition, the Farmers' Market and the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission, have met twice in the past few weeks to discuss different options and constraints for the site.

Though no funding model has been put into place, the vision being promoted includes a combination of a park and garden on the quarter-acre site.

"We're taking a long-term temporary perspective on the site," Welch said at the meeting. "The county will likely have a different use for it down the road."

Still, Welch contended, "down the road" is far enough away to make another community garden a worthwhile venture.

In the near term, Welch said, the first phase of the project would be to request proposals for a manager or sponsor.

"Our primary concern is that the project will probably need someone responsible for taking care of the site," he said.

Welch said proposals for the management of the garden are due to Blaine County by Feb. 10.

The next step would be a "community brainstorm session" to kick off a design contest for the garden. This is scheduled to take place Feb. 24. Welch said that even though the county does not have funding to pay for designs, he still hopes landscape architects would participate in the contest.

The preliminary deadline for design ideas is April 5, with the winner chosen a week later.

For more information on the project, contact Kaz Thea, spokeswoman for the Farmers' Market, at 720-7805.

Jon Duval:

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