Wrapping up his Oct. 16 presentation to the Boise Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners, Land Trust of the Treasure Valley Executive Director Tim Breuer played the part of a wedding officiant:
"I present to you, the Hillside Hollow Master Plan. You may kiss the bride," he said.
To the Land Trust and myriad Foothills users, the project—improving a recently acquired stretch of Boise Foothills from Hillside Junior High to Bogus Basin Road—may be as pretty as a bride on her wedding day.
The area includes more than 300 acres, 59 of them purchased by the Land Trust back in 2011 and the rest purchased by the city of Boise in 2013. Once the land was protected from future development, managers had a big decision to make: what to do with the property.
The city, partnering with the Land Trust, took a unique approach to the process and opened the decision to Foothills users.
Two public meetings earlier this year drew nearly 150 people, who rolled up their sleeves and mapped out which trails should stay, which could go and where new trails could expand.
The Parks and Rec Department sent out its own survey, which received 400 responses. Wendy Larimore, with Parks and Rec, told commissioners that 90 percent of those who access the Hillside to Hollow area are older than 30. She added, 60 percent use the Hillside to Hollow area once a week and half of those use it daily.
"There's a lot of ownership there," she said.
Three-quarters of Hillside to Hollow users go on foot and 70 percent of them bring along a dog. Only 16 percent wanted to see the area designated as on-leash only.
But some had far-fetched expectations, like "keeping all the trails and putting a Starbucks on top," as Larimore put it. Others came back wanting to see nothing changed—the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" attitude. Ultimately, the city and Land Trust said they couldn't be happier.
"The fact that we spent a lot of time listening to citizens and allowing them to show what their ideas were helped a lot," Breuer told Boise Weekly. "It's what helped us get the product at the end that we might not have achieved on our own. The bottom line: It's the citizens' land."
The final product is not dramatically different from the current web of trails. The Buena Vista Trail, which overlooks downtown Boise and Bogus Basin, remains untouched. A trailhead kiosk and small parking area will be installed on Ussery Street off Hill Road. A new trail will meander along the Quail Hollow Golf Course and wrap around to the Ussery Street trailhead.
A small number of trails will close—those with a steepness grade of 10 percent—but that's because those trails are not as popular, they're difficult to maintain and are subject to erosion.
When the meeting opened for public testimony, only one woman stepped up, representing the Central Foothills Neighborhood Association. She praised the master plan, but also urged the city to take steps that will continue to preserve more open space in the Foothills.
Boise Parks and Rec Director Doug Holloway thanked everyone involved in the public process, saying it saved "hours" of testimony during the commissioners meeting.
The master plan passed with only two amendments—to revisit the plan in 10 years, and to write out a statement of collaboration in maintaining the trails with the Land Trust. With that, both the parks commissioners and Land Trust board voted yes, and closed the meeting with a round of applause.
"This area is dear to many people's hearts," Larimore said.