Open Space Matters: 'Now That We've Got It, We Need to Preserve It' 

Boise Parks and Rec releases first draft of management plan for open space reserves

Some members if the public recently saw the first open space reserves management plan, put together by the Boise Department of Parks and Recreation in collaboration with Agnew-Beck, a planning consultation firm with offices in Boise. 

Around 50 people took part in a workshop on April 15 to examine the new plan's vision, goals and strategies relating to the each of the city's 10 reserves: Camel's Back/Hulls Gulch, Castle Rock , Foothills East, Hillside to Hollow, Mesa, Military Reserve, Noble, Oregon Trail, Polecat Gulch and Stack Rock. The reserves total 4,000 acres across the Boise Foothills.

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway began the meeting by explaining how close his department is to finalizing the plan.

"This is the last of the public outreach," he said. Going forward, the plan will help guide city leadership on how to care for the reserves and prepare for increased use as the valley's population grows.

The first question from the attendees was from a man asking why a plan is necessary now, when the reserves have been managed for so long without one.

"We don't have a formal document for how to guide leadership through managing these reserves," Holloway responded. "For the past 15 years, we've been all about acquiring land. Now that we've got it, we need to preserve it." He added that having a management plan in place will help allocate city resources toward the reserves. 

Management goals in the plan include sustaining open spaces, creating connectivity, protecting ecosystems, ensuring accessibility, investing in education and outreach, and increasing the capacity to acquire more open spaces.

Each focus area has specific strategies. For example, protecting ecosystems by mapping out key habitat areas and examining the effect recreation use has on them, creating habitat restoration plans, monitoring waterways, and enforcing trapping laws.

Attendees broke into six groups to discuss the focus areas individually. Comments came up regarding the protection of the threatened Slickspot peppergrass and area viewsheds, priorities in user groups, and possible expansion in parking areas. 

After speaking about the plan's broader goals, the next focus group honed in on specific reserve management strategies. Citizens expressed concern over off-leash dogs on trails around Camel's Back. The draft suggests increasing awareness of trail etiquette and finding solutions to dog waste. 

At the station discussing Hillside to Hollow, Land Trust of the Treasure Valley Executive Director Tim Breuer wanted to do away with the designation of trade parcels.

"We bought it, we own it, let's keep it," he said.

The station drawing the most attention revolved around Military Reserve. Several attendees were upset over a new Remote Automatic Weather Station installed near Elephant Rock Trail.

"We want to see the scenic and historic value of Military Reserve protected," said one woman, "regarding any development." 

She said the eight-foot-high beige wrought-iron fence and cell phone tower-looking devices created an eyesore in one of the most picturesque views of the Foothills. Other strategies suggested for Military Reserve in the daft plan include limiting some areas for special uses—like the dog park, adding more parking spaces near trailheads and controlling invasive weeds.

The workshop wrapped up with a lot of feedback for those drafting the plan to consider. The 54-page plan has already been built largely on public opinion, with 3,000 citizen responses from surveys and open houses in the past year. Now, the public has until Monday, April 20 to submit comments on the draft before it heads to the Boise Parks and Recreation Commission and ultimately the Boise City Council. 


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