Boiseans have long visited a popular hill-studded refuge crisscrossed by hiking trails known as Hillside to the Hollow. A destination for dog walkers, cyclists and runners, the parcel stretches from Hillside Junior High School to Harrison Hollow, and from the top affords a panoramic view of the Treasure Valley.
But only in the past few years have users learned the area's open space could be replaced with new development.
"A lot of people knew it existed, but didn't know it was private property. People had really taken it for granted for years," said Michelle Cooper, president of the grassroots Hillside to the Hollow Coalition.
Formed after Eagle developer Kastera Homes announced its hopes to fill the hilltops with homes in 2006, the Hillside to the Hollow Coalition made it a top priority to preserve the area as open space.
That group's efforts led to the first successful conservation-focused purchase in the area in December 2011--a 59-acre parcel known as Harrison Hollow.
"This was unlike anything we've ever done before--which was raise the money to buy the property. When you talk about conserving land, there's all these different tools, but it doesn't get any simpler to explain, but hardest to do, to get out your checkbook and buy it," said Treasure Valley Land Trust Executive Director Tim Breuer.
Donors raised $580,000 to save the parcel, including a $250,000 donation from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, to purchase what's called a gateway to the larger Hillside to the Hollow area.
"Our opinion was, we have to get this, or we're not going to get the rest," said Breuer.
The Land Trust believes its purchase helped pave the way for the city of Boise, which, in 2013, announced plans to purchase an additional 260 acres adjacent to the parcel.
The Boise City Council voted to allocate $1.9 million in funds from the 2001 Foothills serial levy to purchase 260 acres of property, bounded by Cartwright Road to the north, Bogus Basin Road to the east, Hill Road to the south and 36th Street to the west.
Jonathan Kaji, president of Los Angeles real estate brokerage Kaji and Associates, represented Boise Foothills, Inc., formerly DBSI Boise Foothills LLC, a consortium of 51 individuals whose investments made up the 260-acre parcel located in the area.
His father-in-law invested $100,000 of his retirement savings into the deal, Kaji said, but others, many of them senior citizens, invested much more. He believes the total amount raised by DBSI for the project was $6 million. When he became involved in the transaction, he said it appeared the Boise Foothills, Inc., deal would be a complete loss.
"I think I can say that there's been a sigh of relief by the investors that they were able to recoup 30 percent of their original investment," said Kaji.
Eight acres adjacent to existing homes along the southern edge of the city's property remain under the ownership of Boise Foothills, Inc., with potential for future development.
"A lot of people who currently walk up there, who ride their bike up there, they think it's all one piece. But it's all this puzzle up there," said Julia Grant, open space manager for the City of Boise Parks and Recreation Department.
Private property still surrounds the space preserved by the city and the land trust. Future acquisitions may make the Hillside to the Hollow network a more complete trail system.
"In order to make it a connecting trail system from Bogus Basin to 36th [Street], we'll have to look at some other properties or easements with adjoining property owners to make it a connecting, sustainable trail system," said Grant.
Plans to purchase adjacent parcels, if any, remain private due to the sensitive nature of land deals with private owners.
But Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway acknowledged the city will evaluate a laundry list of parcels best suited for conservation--efforts that would be paid for using the remaining $1.8 million in the Foothills levy fund.
"With every piece you buy, it shifts your priorities, because you then have a different amount of funding left, and you say, OK, now I've got this on my map, what's the best use of this $1.8 million?" said Grant.
A master plan for the city's 260 acres will take shape as part of a public process, which will evaluate the best points for access, use and plans to account for wildlife and natural vegetation found on the property.
"The public will absolutely be involved with what we do with that 260 acres," said Holloway.
Cooper said many of the Hillside to the Hollow users would like to see few changes in their beloved open space.
"It's worked well for 20 years the way it is. So I think people would like to keep it pretty much the way it is," said Cooper.
The Land Trust is developing a management plan for its 59-acre parcel as well.
The future holds a new relationship between Boise Parks and Recreation and the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley--as new neighbors.
"We have offered to assist the city in designing a process that really engages the community in a meaningful way. We'll see what happens and how they choose to move forward," said Breuer.
"We've had great conversations with them just in the last month, with their board, about how we can work together in the future on this piece and possibly other projects," said Grant.