Creating a river park at Hulen Meadows has become a polarized issue with lots of distrust floating around. The reason stems from a flawed process. There could have been—and could still be—a better scenario based on my experience with the Forest Service.
Early on, we always got beat up proposing projects based on our own ideas. The plan was set in stone from the get-go with no avenues for honest dialogue about what could or should happen. After many frustrating years, we shifted our philosophy and everything became much easier. We learned to talk to people well before we laid anything out. We would throw out ideas and offer genuine opportunities for public input and, if people didn’t like an idea, even if we did, we dropped it. People came to trust us and we were able to do a lot of things that were really important.
Ketchum’s City Council has lost sight of the fact that it works for the people. So has the Bureau of Land Management. They have not offered proper opportunities up front for public input to shape this project. They have not asked everyone: What can we do to meet your needs with this large piece of land? What makes economic sense? What makes environmental sense?
The BLM has relied from the start on Ketchum’s parameters for a river park, which include drilling a well that could affect Hulen Meadows, rather than putting it out for review by all who would be affected. It has overlooked the opportunity to sit down and talk to local residents and many others with serious concerns. Agreeing to a workable solution is hard and time-consuming. Saying “no” becomes easy when things are polarized. Can we repair the process on the River Park?