Wednesday, September 19, 2012

City OKs master plan for whitewater park

Hulen Meadows residents express concern

Express Staff Writer

The city of Ketchum took two steps Monday to move forward with a proposed river park north of town. The City Council voted unanimously to approve both a master plan for a $2.7 million park and a $101,240 contract to prepare an environmental assessment required by the BLM.

The city still needs to secure ownership of the federally owned land before it can build the park.

Two private groups, the Wood River Land Trust and the White Water Park Committee, each agreed Monday to contribute one-third of the cost of the environmental assessment, leaving the city’s share at $33,747.

The park would run through the Sun Peak picnic area, on BLM land north of Ketchum and immediately southeast of Hulen Meadows subdivision.

According to the plan, the park’s main feature would be a whitewater park along about 1,500 feet of the Big Wood River. The park would provide a place for novice to expert kayakers—and tubers—to test their skills. Strategically placed drop features would create a variety of waves.

Other park features would include trails, river and pond access, habitat restoration, wildlife viewing, dog play areas and a fishing pier.

Ketchum—in partnership with the Land Trust—is working to secure a Recreation and Public Purposes patent from the BLM that would transfer ownership of the land to the city so long as it uses it for public purposes.

Ketchum Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Smith said at the meeting that the BLM had required that the master plan be completed before the environmental assessment—that way the environmental assessment could be tailored to specifically address the park’s proposed design.

Smith said the master plan cost a little over $75,000. However, the cost was not paid entirely by the city.

“We got a private donation for $60,000 to help pay for the master plan,” she said.

Smith said she expects a large percentage of the $2.7 million required to build the park to come from private donors.

The contract for the environmental assessment was awarded to S2o Design and Engineering, a Lyons, Colo.,-based whitewater park design firm that had also developed the master plan in conjunction with local community groups. S2o is captained by Scott Shipley, a veteran of three Olympic Games and holder of four world titles in whitewater slalom kayaking. S2o developed the hydraulic features for the 2012 London Olympics whitewater course.

“The master plan is very much in line with the sentiments and ethos of this community,” Shipley said at the meeting. “It’s been a fantastic project so far. I’m very proud to be a part of this process.”

The council chambers were packed for the discussion of the proposed river park. Members of the public made comments expressing both enthusiasm and concern toward the park. The members of the public who expressed the most concern were Hulen Meadows residents.

“When people are walking or biking on the bridge now, we have to stop [our cars],” Hulen Meadows resident Dave Manookian said referring to the Sage Road bridge that connects Hulen Meadows to the highway. “I’m cautioning you right now as City Council people—if someone gets hurt or killed on that bridge, the lawsuit is going to be on you.”

Shipley said the main parking lot would be on the east side of the park, by the highway before the bridge, and, therefore, park users would not increase congestion on the bridge. A smaller parking lot across the bridge would be limited to parking for disabled park users.

“This park looks great,” Ketchum resident and kayak instructor Scott Levy said. “I hope we can address all the neighbors’ concerns. It’s going to be great for the youth of the community.”

Brennan Rego:

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