By BOB JONAS
The citizens of the Wood River Valley through elections and comprehensive planning have made clear they want their elected officials to: 1) protect our exceptional natural resources, 2) forge partnerships to create sustainable communities and economies and 3) make investments that serve all the citizens of the valley, our visitors and, especially, future generations. In essence, we want grow a community culture that designs, develops and builds heritage projects that have increasing value through time, each generation of caretakers happy to pass on a legacy that contributes to a diverse, vital and healthy community.
I believe the proposal for the Water Park at Sun Peak, located three miles north of Ketchum on the Big Wood River, is such a project. Consider its goals:
1. A restored natural river that significantly improves the fish and streamside wildlife habitat while reducing the risk of downstream flooding. The project’s major construction (and cost) is the rehabilitation of the main river channel, two side channels, their sediment ponds (the south pond is the so-called Hulen Meadows Pond) and recovery of the riparian vegetation. Seven drop structures, two grade controls and current deflectors constructed in the stream channels will control flood erosion and provide significant pool habitat at both high and low flows.
2. Protects, enhances and maintains an existing multi-user recreation and education resource for all the people, a quality of life asset that serves locals and attracts visitors and new residents who will spend in the local economy. The segment of river corridor protected is the only public ground in the entire valley—from the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters to Stanton Crossing below Bellevue—where the public (and migrating wildlife like elk) can access both banks of the river in one place. The in-channel drop structures will create new whitewater boating opportunities for all skill levels at high/mid flows and tubing excitement at low flows. The trout fishery in all seasons will be greatly enhanced. The very young, elderly and handicapped will have access. Youth education focusing on natural resource protection and sustainable development will have new models to explore, discuss and help maintain.
3. Bring together a collaboration of technical expertise, partnerships, diverse community stakeholders and the public to create a heritage park. Local organizations, besides the Wood River Land Trust and city of Ketchum, the partners spearheading the collaboration and with whom management and maintenance of the park will be entrusted, include the Hulen Meadows homeowners, Trout Unlimited Hemingway Chapter, White Water Committee, Idaho Rivers United, Higher Ground Sun Valley and the Confluence Fund. They are working with an expert team of five designers and builders and eight state, federal and Blaine County agencies.
This heritage project is a public park that features restoring a vestige of the natural river that once flowed freely through the valley. Its creation is about appreciating the welfare of the next generations, demonstrating a valley-wide commitment to the stewardship of our natural resources upon which our personal health and economy depends, a torch of enduring value to pass on. Please be informed—find updated information on Ketchum’s website www.ketchumidaho.org. On the Home menu, click Departments/Parks & Recreation.
As a Hulen Meadows resident, give me a call at 726-7475. I’ll be happy to walk the park turf with you and discuss the project’s merits and the concerns.
Bob Jonas has resided in the Wood River Valley for 70 years, the last 15 years at Hulen Meadows, north of Ketchum.