Friday, January 31, 2014

Balanced approach used to plan river park

     The mission of Wood River Land Trust is to work with landowners and the community to protect and restore our landscapes while providing appropriate public access. We believe public use and access is crucial as it deepens respect for our environment and creates the next generation of stewards for our planet and champions of nature.

     The River Park at Sun Peak plan is an opportunity for us to improve an already altered section of river, provide for future restoration and maintenance, and allow for healthy recreation on public lands.

     Public land is meant to be public—access for all. The proposed trail will allow those with disabilities, such as wounded veterans, the chance to enjoy and experience our river. Providing access to nature includes having safe parking for all users of the site and toilets that suitably confine human waste.

     By my calculations, only 5 percent of the 220-acre site will be used for parking, active use and a restroom. As part of the planning design, these areas have been located on parts of the site that have been previously disturbed. Sensitive areas and wildlife habitats have been specifically set aside and will be protected.

     Over the past six years, we have met with and continue to meet with all stakeholders in our community. This plan evolved with the input from nearby homeowners, the city of Ketchum, recreation professionals and the general public. A few vocal critics would have us do nothing.

     Wood River Land Trust has advocated for a comprehensive plan that protects wildlife and fishery habitat. The proposed reconstructed drop structures will help alleviate downstream flooding events by restoring the function of the pond area as a sediment trap. Without these improvements, the sediment trap will cease to exist and become cut off from the river. The result will be a straighter, shorter river that will carry more sediment downstream, potentially increasing flooding damage.

     We agree that a stewardship and management plan should have been created when this section of river was first altered decades ago. We are not repeating that mistake, and this plan includes a set-aside fund for future maintenance.

     We have reviewed the plan numerous times with local homeowners and the public. In order to incorporate feedback, we have had three neighborhood home meetings, one on-site open house, 23 Ketchum City Council meetings, one Bureau of Land Management open house, and two city of Ketchum public meetings about the design.

     We feel the current plan balances the needs and desires for the area. It provides enhanced enjoyment for this public land for all who visit and live nearby, as well as for the wildlife and fish that call this place home.

Scott Boettger is the executive director of the Hailey-based Wood River Land Trust.

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