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Trail and Error

The city lets the public name foothills trails, with mixed results

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"Dickbutt Ravine." "Hitler Did Nothing Wrong Trail." "Reefer Madness." "Donald Trump's Toupee." This is what Boise city officials got when they invited the public to suggest names for a series of Hillside to Hollow trails.

Since the city of Boise and the Treasure Valley Land Trust purchased 319 acres of foothills stretching from Quail Hollow Golf Course to Bogus Basin Road, the two entities have strived to include the public in the planning process.

In the beginning, city planners put together open houses in which they laid out maps of existing trails and asked the public to sketch out what trails should stay, which should go and what trails could be added.

Instead of naming the trails in the traditional way—based on geographic features or nearby landmarks—the city opened up the naming process to the public in December 2014.

"Why not stay in the collaborative spirit of the whole thing?" David Gordon, program manager for Ridge to Rivers, said at the time.

After hundreds of ideas rolled in and the city opened online suggestions, Gordon and his colleagues quickly realized they needed to give the public some guidance. Suggestions like "Brad's Massive One," "Ron Swanson" and "Pepsi is Better Than Coke Trail" didn't make the best names.

Another problem: several of the suggested names were in honor of deceased people or pets.

"This is where it gets really awkward or uncomfortable for me," said Sara Arkle, Foothills Open Space senior manager for Boise. "Those people and those animals mean so much to those individuals, but there were so many submissions, that you can't cater to all of them. In naming an asset like a trail, there has to be a level of significance to the city, the region, the state."

There are trails in the network with obscure names: "Shane's Loop," "Sweet Connie," "Bob's Trail." Arkle said those have been retained because they've been around for generations, "and it gives character to the system."

To better control the naming process, Parks and Recreation officials crafted a set of guidelines which was approved by the Boise City Council. Eight months later, on Aug. 17, the public was again invited to weigh in online.

Two dozen pages worth of names were submitted, then a total of 89 online votes determined the names for eight trails in the Hillside to Hollow area. They still have to be approved by the City Council, but the list includes names like "Full Sail Trail," "Buena Vista," the "West Climb" and "Who-now Loop."

Assuming council members approve, two trails will be named after people: Robert Smylie, for the late Idaho governor; and Kemper's Ridge, named for Don Kemper, founder and CEO of nonprofit Healthwise, which provides health-related information to hospitals and health care providers. The company's headquarters sits at the base of Harrison Hollow, part of the Hillside to Hollow trail network. Smylie, who served as Idaho's chief executive from 1955 to 1967, established the Idaho State Parks and Recreation Department.

Much to the delight of Megan Jones, general manager of Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, one trail will be named "Hippy Shake."

"Hippy Shake is one of our flagship beers," she said. "It's a strong-bodied ale, beyond the spectrum of an IPA and one of our first recipes."

Jones has never lived more than a mile from Hill Road and the restaurant has been in her family for decades. She called the trails "sacred" to her family's business.

"I think it's an honor to have a trail named after our iconic beer," she said.

Now that the Parks and Recreation Commission has approved the suggested names, Arkle is drafting a resolution to submit to the Boise City Council. Signposts are already in place on the trails, waiting for the official names to be added.

Once that happens, land managers will start closing a few of the trails to allow for rare and native plant populations to come back and prevent soil erosion. Arkle hopes to get started on those projects this fall.

She's not sure whether the naming process will again be open to the public.

"Everyone loves that piece of ground so much," Arkle said. "I think it's important that people know that on the back end of a complex and convoluted process, there's a group of people who really want to do the right thing."

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