Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ketchum cuts red tape for river park

Environmental assessment to commence ‘shortly’

A pair of kayakers play in a wave on the Big Wood River. Express file photo

As the result of action by the Ketchum City Council this week, the city can now commission a study on the environmental effects of a proposed whitewater park north of town.

Last month, the council approved a master plan for the proposed $2.6 million river park at Sun Peak, on BLM-managed land just southeast of Hulen Meadows subdivision. However, completion of an environmental assessment is required by the BLM before the city can take ownership of the land.

On Monday, the council unanimously approved an agreement with the BLM that establishes how much the city is willing to pay for the study. The environmental assessment will cost just over $100,000, but two private groups—Wood River Land Trust and the White Water Park Committee—have each agreed to contribute one-third of the cost, leaving the city’s share at $33,747.

In 2008, Ketchum applied to the BLM for a Recreation and Public Purposes Patent that would transfer deed-restricted ownership of the land to the city. The patent, if approved, would include a reversionary interest to the BLM should it determine at any point that Ketchum has failed to use the land for the purposes stated in the patent.

The environmental assessment will be conducted by Seattle-based GeoEngineers, under supervision by the BLM. GeoEngineers is a subcontractor of S2o Design and Engineering, a Lyons, Colo.,-based whitewater park design company with which the city contracted—in conjunction with local community groups—to develop the park master plan.

“We’re not prepared to start a fundraising campaign until the (patent) is awarded.”
Jen Smith
Parks director

Ketchum Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Smith said the agreement between Ketchum and the BLM will ensure that the city does not incur unexpected costs during the environmental assessment process.

“The [agreement] will prevent scope creep,” she said. “If that agreement weren’t in place, there’s a high potential that GeoEngineers or the BLM could decide the project needs a whole lot more work than the city is prepared to pay for.”

Smith said Tuesday that the BLM and GeoEngineers have scheduled an environmental assessment “kickoff” meeting next week, and that work will begin shortly after that meeting. She said the project will take seven to eight weeks to complete.

Before construction can begin on the project, proponents of the park will need to obtain numerous federal, state and county permits, as well as raise the needed money.

“We’re not prepared to start a fundraising campaign until the Recreation and Public Purposes Patent is awarded,” Smith said.

Brennan Rego:

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