Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hailey homeless man relocated for project

Blaine County Recreation District called Hailey officials for help

Express Staff Writer

Richard Grace

Richard Lee Grace, more commonly known as “Bird Dog,” squatted tenaciously for much of the past 10 years in the woods on private land at the mouth of Croy Canyon, west of Hailey.

This fall he was relocated to parts unknown, to make way for the development of cross-country ski trails operated by the Blaine County Recreation District. 

The city of Hailey holds an easement on the property, which is owned by the Simons family. The area will be used this winter by the Blaine County Recreation District as a starting point for several miles of cross-country ski trails that have been developed in Croy Canyon. 

City Attorney Ned Williamson said the city was requested by the Recreation District to provide help in relocating Grace “because of the increased activity involving ski trails” in the area. 

“We had a management duty on the property,” said Williamson.

Grace lived on and off for many years with numerous cats at the mouth of Croy Canyon in a makeshift hut. Other homeless individuals have lived deeper in the bush in Croy Canyon, also.

In 2008, landowner William Simons (now deceased) told the Idaho Mountain Express that Grace believed he was authorized to live on Simons’ land by “his greater outer galactic world that he says he communes with."

Grace claimed to be a descendant or survivor from the lost island of Atlantis, saying he would one day be taken away in a spaceship by beings from a planet he called “Rilgrace,” which was once the home of the people of Atlantis.

Grace was relocated on at least one occasion by Hailey police, but returned to Croy Canyon, where he reportedly lived this past summer. 

Erin Pfaeffle, a licensed social worker and manager of St. Luke’s Center for Community Health, was thanked by Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle in a letter for helping the city handle Grace’s most recent relocation, which otherwise would have been handled by the courts. 

Pfaeffle is a founding member of the Community Mental Health Task Force, established in 2010 to identify needs in Blaine County

“I believe your relationship with the gentleman not only really helped him, but also the property owner, the Blaine County Recreation District and the city of Hailey,” wrote Heammerle. “Your approach was far better and more humane than any judicial approach which we could have pursued … thank you for your professionalism.”

Pfaeffle declined to provide details on where Grace is living now, or how she managed to talk him into leaving the area, citing the need to keep her client’s personal matters confidential.

“This is something we take quite seriously,” Pfaeffle said.

Williamson said he communicated with Grace through Pfaeffle during efforts to relocate him.

“His viewpoint was that he had a high respect for the land. He left the area spotless when he departed, and also cleaned up other areas,” Williamson said.

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