Friday, December 20, 2013

Ketchum unveils partial design of whitewater park

Project estimated to cost $2.3 million

Express Staff Writer

This “60 percent design” of the proposed Ketchum whitewater park identifies where specific elements of the project would be located. A complete design is expected to be finished by next summer.
Graphic by S2O Design and Engineering

Ketchum city officials unveiled on Wednesday a “60 percent design” of a proposed whitewater park on the Big Wood River north of the city.
In a meeting at Hemingway Elementary School, city officials said the project is estimated to cost $2.3 million, not including the maintenance and management of the park.
The proposed park would offer recreation features both in the river and along its banks. The design shows where certain elements would be located but does not give close-up details of what the features would look like.
Mike Homza, associate and lead stream restoration engineer of GeoEngineers, voiced his excitement for the proposed project near the Hulen Meadows subdivision.
“We want to make sure everything is built robustly, and put in the right place,” Homza said. “We want to make sure this is a great people place and not just a rest stop, so we’re always looking for things that will make it fun.”
Scott Shipley, of hired consultant S2O Design, said he wants to make sure the park is designed with as much public input as possible, and emphasized that it is prioritized as a restoration and preservation project above all else.
“We see a river that is changing. One of the things we know is that it won’t last until somebody does something about it,” Shipley said. “We determined that we need to make sure the water in the pond remains fresh. There’s a tremendous amount of deposition going on here where there was once a very active channel. This is about creating a park that everyone can use, whether you’re walking your dog, boating or kayaking, fishing or walking through the trails.”
    Kurt Eggers, of Eggers Associates, talked about which amenities will be offered on both the west and east sides of the river. On the west side, plans call for a fishing and viewing pier, a picnic shelter, drinking fountain and restrooms. For the east side, plans include shade sails, a pedestrian bridge and more restrooms.
    The city is working to acquire land in the area from the Bureau of Land Management to complete the project.
One point of controversy between the design teams and residents of the Hulen Meadows area is the location of parking. In the initial design, 50 parking spaces were allocated west of the river. However, after criticism and opposition from Hulen Meadows residents, the parking area was reduced to 26 spaces.

I always emphasize the conservation and restoration of this project first.”
Jen Smith
Parks and Recreation director

    Shipley said having parking spaces west of the river is necessary in order to accommodate disabled persons who need to park close to the river to avoid carrying their gear more than 300 yards. Some Hulen Meadows residents voiced their concerns of having parking within close proximity of their houses.
Homza said parking spaces will be on a driving surface that is permeable with drainage. He added that the idea behind the parking spaces is that they blend into the landscape of the natural environment, as they’re supposed to look like Forest Service trailhead parking areas. The proposed parking areas for both the west side and east side of the river would not be lit.
Citizens in attendeance were essentially split in regards to their support of the project. Some praised the design teams and the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department for their outreach seeking public input, while others criticized them for not doing enough.
“We heard from Hulen Meadows residents that we didn’t listen to them enough,” Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Smith said. “I take issue with that. The city has reached out to the Hulen Meadows neighborhood quite a bit since the beginning of the project and we will continue to do that. Some of our requests for meetings have been ignored. We were told by the Hulen Meadows Homeowners Association that they did not want to meet with us for whatever reasons, but it’s not because we aren’t listening to them.”
The design teams are working on a report for the Bureau of Land Management regarding costs, feasibility and maintenance of the project. If the BLM determines what has been proposed does not impose a significant impact, then it could issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), allowing the project to take its next steps forward.
“This project is about conservation,” Smith said. “This area has been massively manipulated in the past by various jurisdictions for various reasons. They include preserving the highway right-of-way to mitigating flood damage and things like that. I always emphasize the conservation and restoration of this project first. We have to rehabilitate some areas and correct what has steadily been degrading over time. The recreation and flood element aspects complement this project.”
Smith told the Mountain Express she expects the remaining 40 percent of the drawing to be completed next summer.
Eric Avissar:

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