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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Big plans laid
for Lionís Park

Ice rink, whitewater park,
may mesh with nature trail

Express Staff Writer

Pouring over maps of Haileyís Lionís Park and tentative designs for a whitewater park, a nature trail and a covered ice rink, an ad hoc group of recreation, restoration and conservation advocates met with city staff last week to discuss proposed improvements to the park.

Reached by Croy Street bridge, Lionís Park is located on the west bank of the Big Wood River.

Hailey City Councilwoman Carol Brown hosted the meeting Thursday, March 25, in the newly renovated public meeting space at City Hall.

Haileyís Lionís Park on the banks of the Big Wood River may be turned into a more prominent recreation destination that could include an indoor ice rink, a whitewater park and a nature trail. Express photo by Matt Furber

Representatives for the Wood River Land Trust and supporters of the proposed ice rink and whitewater park projects held the roundtable meeting to discuss how the various projects could be coordinated. Also at issue is to make the most efficient use of city staff time during the planning process.

The Hailey Parks and Lands Board was asked to guide the planning process and provide oversight for all parties interested in park improvements.

The ice rink planners have raised $270,000 in pledges and $120,000 in cash bringing them close to the money needed to begin construction. "At $500,000 we can start breaking ground," said Ron Fairfax one of the ice rink advocates spearheading the fundraising.

When completed the estimated $600,000 to $900,000 steel truss building would house a refrigerated ice rink, locker rooms and bathrooms.

The whitewater park team hopes to lay rock in the Big Wood River to create hydraulics that will be interesting to both kayakers and anglers, said Dave McCarmick, who is helping organize the project.

"It would take about two months to lay the foundation and place the rocks," he said. Some of the rocks would be flat to provide places along the river where people could rest. The park is to be paid for largely with private funds.

The Wood River Land Trust is hoping to organize grant money that will go to cleaning up the immediate surroundings and building a nature trail that would give visitors an opportunity to view beaver ponds located at the base of Della Mountain.

To help achieve some of the public recreation enhancements, the Land Trust plans to apply through the State of Idaho for an EPA grant. The grant would be funded with federal monies under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, a nonpoint source management program that would be administered by the state.

Currently, Lionís Park has a baseball diamond and some playground equipment. The parking area is used as a storage space for snow in the winter and a temporary storage spot for chip sealing work that is done on city streets in the summer.

The planners, however, face a retinue of hurdles before the future vision for the riverfront is realized, including coordinating the plans of the different user groups and city needs for snow storage.

Hailey Public Works Manager Ray Hyde and City Engineer Tom Hellen were present at the meeting to give their input and estimate how much city labor the assembled groups would require with their projects.

"(The park) looks ripe for recreation funding," Hyde said. "Itís all about timing. Weíve never put so many things together."

Hyde said that if the projects involve in-kind services to pay for city labor, timing would be critical.

"Itís not undoable," he said. "There will have to be a lot of meetings with a lot of groups to make sure everyone gets on the same page."

Other challenges include studying flood plain impacts, how to provide water and sewer services, coordinating riparian restoration, and creating an adequate entry to the park from Croy Street.

Hailey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Smith and Chamber President Jim Spinnelli both voiced support for the improvements citing the benefits to tourism as a huge potential source of income for Hailey.

Once plans have been chosen, the city of Hailey will be the applicant to Blaine County for permission to move forward with the project. Although the park is on city owned property, the land is in the county.

Negotiations to build a retirement home in Croy Canyon, to be called the Blaine Manor Extension, are widely cited as beneficial to the recreation advocates because the city and the county are already being petitioned to find a way to get water and sewer services out to that proposed development.

All the projects will require coordination with the county on zoning requirements. Some city planners have said the plans could put the city in the driverís seat for guiding development if annexation applications are received and considered.

"This is a good example of different parts of the community coming together for a common goal," said Dan Gilmore, community relations director for the Wood River Land Trust. "At one point it was dump."


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