By BOB JONAS
As a resident of Hulen Meadows, I attended our board’s annual homeowner’s meeting this past week. An important item on the agenda was to appreciate Hulen Meadows residents’ attitude toward development of a public river park on federal BLM land adjacent to the neighborhood.
The Wood River Land Trust and the city of Ketchum, key partners in advancing the river park proposal through the federal, state and county permitting process, have involved the lay public, local nonprofits, engineers, landscapers and other organizations, including the Hulen Meadows homeowners, in the park’s design these past four years. The feature element (and biggest money investment) is a revitalized Big Wood River in the so-called Hulen Meadows Pond section, i.e. from the Hulen Meadows subdivision access road to just below the Hulen Meadows Pond. Construction of seven in-stream drop structures in the main river and Hulen Meadows Pond channels, pond dredging and riparian restoration throughout will result in an enhanced trout fishery, whitewater boating and flat water recreation experience that serves all valley residents and our visitors while protecting wildlife habitat (public park designation will likely lead to a no-hunting statute). I agree with my Hulen Meadows neighbors in supporting this feature element of the park. Investment in and protection of the valley’s natural capital is the foundation of our quality of life and economic success.
I also agree with my neighbors relative to facilitating public access to enjoy the river park, i.e. a toilet, picnic tables, a nylon shade and parking on the east side of the park next to state Highway 75, a parking area that already exists—plus construction of a pedestrian bridge to access the river pond from the east side parking.
I disagree with my neighbors, who want no development on the west side of the river (except restoration of the pond). I believe it is important to provide direct pond access on the west side for handicap, elders and groups off/on loading water play gear. A dirt lane and parking providing 12 parking spaces and screened with berms and native vegetation facilitates this access and mitigates traffic conflict along the Hulen Meadows resident access roads. A single toilet and picnic shelter on the west side constructed of natural materials and sited to blend with the existing cottonwood tree grove serves these pond users.
I believe the impact of the river park on Hulen Meadows is very positive. A restored river, pond and riparian area will enhance our user experience and property value. More than any other neighborhood in the valley, Hulen Meadows already enjoys exceptional access to public lands and trail systems on our north, south and west side. Given the period of high park use is four months of the year (May-August) and access to our homes from Highway 75 is but three minutes, traffic conflict will be far less than negotiating downtown Ketchum. And because only 20 of the 152 Hulen Meadows homes have sight of the parklands, overall visual and noise impact on the neighborhood is minimal. I support all elements of the river park as currently proposed as an important quality of life investment for Hulen Meadows, all the people of the valley and future generations.
Bob Jonas, a longtime valley resident, lives in Hulen Meadows, north of Ketchum.