When the city of Boise hired Tim Breuer in 1992, it was to help facilitate a brand new foothills trail program called Ridge to Rivers. The goal was to create 90 miles of trails for use by hikers, mountain bikers and outdoors enthusiasts.
Today, the Ridge to Rivers trail system has more than 150 miles of trails stretching from the Eagle foothills to Lucky Peak Reservoir and up to Shafer Butte. Breuer left his post at Ridge to Rivers 10 years ago and became the executive director of the Treasure Valley Land Trust.
There, he has helped procure crucial pieces of the foothills through purchases and easements including Hillside to Hollow, Harrison Hollow and the trail to Stack Rock. On a recent spring day, he met with Boise Weekly to talk about conservation challenges, accomplishments and future goals. Of course, our interview took place alongside a trail in the foothills.
You were the first Ridge to Rivers guy.
[Ridge to Rivers] was nonexistent. It was lines on a map and I was hired to figure out how to make it work. With the help of private landowners and a lot of community support, we worked together to get the initial trail system in place.
What were some of the challenges in building this from the ground up?
Initially it was trying to figure out how to get the private landowners' support, but once they saw the benefit, that became the easy part. There was something in it for them. People were already crossing their property, so this allowed them to have someone help manage the public. It took the somewhat chaotic land uses in the foothills and put them on a designated use of trails.
What became more challenging as time went on was keeping the government agencies working well together. But people loved the initial trail system. It gained enough community support to encourage the idea that maybe we need some funds to acquire land. That resulted in the 2001 foothills levy, which was successful and created $10 million that's still being used.
We originally planned for 90 miles. Well, we've blown past that. We're closing in on 190 miles of trails now.
I can't imagine Boise without the foothills network of trails we have today. What did people do before this?
Interestingly, you would go for a walk or bike ride and just start riding these routes made by motorcycles, made by critters, made by mining access. You'd cross private land and maybe follow old water diversions from the military barracks, like the Crestline Trail.
Many of us had just bought our first mountain bike and we were all exploring up here. If you came across another mountain biker, it was such a rare occurrence that you'd stop and chat—tell each other where you discovered.
After you left the Ridge to Rivers job, when you looked back at the end of your 12 years, how did you feel?
Oh, totally satisfied. We put something together that's the envy of the country.
And now you're going on a decade with the Land Trust. Do you feel the same level of accomplishment?
I do. In some ways, Harrison Hollow was one of the most satisfying moments in my career. Raising entirely private money to buy a piece of open space without any government agency tax dollars—nothing like that had ever been done.
Are there other places that are at risk for development that you have your eye on?
There are certain trails that are under temporary revocable agreements that we put together in the early '90s, like Corrals Trail and Lower Hulls Gulch.
All of those trails could potentially be at risk. I mean obviously Hulls Gulch is down in a gully, so there isn't much of a chance of a house showing up there, but it's private property and the owners can do what they'd like.
Who are these private property owners that have control of this landscape that everybody hikes on?
In some ways, these are the the real heroes in the story. Brad Little and the Little family, the Simplot family and the Grossman family are three of the biggest.
They were the first to say, "Sure, we'll enter into these trail agreements." If that hadn't happened, we'd still have this ad hoc trail network that may or may not have a "No Trespassing" sign on it. But they understand that it's part of what makes Boise a cool place to live, work and raise a family.
Land conservation and development are not always in direct conflict. Open space can frame where development should go and development can be a mechanism for teeing up conservation.
What's next for our trail system?
Well, there was the open space bond last year that got 60-some percent of the votes, but it wasn't enough to pass. Yet, clearly, we care about our foothills. There are some who think it's time that the citizenry have an opportunity to vote again to create a pool of funds to acquire open spaces.
It would be an open space levy for areas such as the Boise Foothills and the Boise River, for enhancement and land acquisition. It's going to be up to the mayor and the city council, but they're very supportive of open space. My sense is there's enough chatter and energy around this that I would be surprised if mayor and council doesn't take this up for the next month.
It would add another another $10 million to open space, and I think it's time. The old one is just about done. This'll be for new things, new places.