Greedy Garden City Wants OUR Fair Grounds

This post first appeared in the GUARDIAN more than 6 years ago after Dave Frazier, GUARDIAN editor, communicated with then Ada Commishes over the ailing Les Bois Park race track–part of Expo Idaho. The issue remains the same: Garden City politicos want OUR land for business. This comes only 2 days after Boise voters were asked to fund more parks and open space. If Boise is serious, they can support keeping the county property as a park and even “buy in.” Since 2007, the county has spent $169,000 for a survey and decided to do nothing. Now Garden City is once again after OUR LAND.

MARCH 11, 2007

All you developers and politicians better keep your greedy hands off the Western Idaho Fairgrounds because it belongs to us–the people of Ada County.

If there are any changes they should be along the lines of an “agriculture heritage park” preserving the past in a manner which will educate today’s children and adults. It will provide a hands on experience for students and give us all a peek into the proud agricultural heritage of rural Idaho.

Given the numbers of farmers who have curtailed their farm activities for economic, social, and geriatric reasons, there is a wealth of expertise in the area of milking cows, planting crops, horse shoeing, threshing grain, fixing tractors, feeding goats, and tending chickens.

With a vote of the citizens and through donations, we could finance a demonstration farm with authentic barns, sheds and farm houses–plenty are being demolished to make room for the hordes seeking to live shoulder-to-shoulder with their neighbors in what was once rural Ada County.

Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Greenfield Village near Detroit, The LBJ Ranch in Texas are all historic parks which preserve our heritage and provide an educational experience for young and old alike with historic demonstration farms and they are big tourist attractions.

The oft-maligned state of Mississippi has a wonderful “southern town” heritage park adjacent to the state fairgrounds in Jackson. It has a general store, church, gas station with a hand pump, and all that exemplified life in the deep south about 1900.

With a little excavation, the high water table at the race track could serve as a superb urban fishery. The Idaho Historical Society has several turn of the century structures which would be a valuable contribution to an authentic Idaho farmstead. Toss in a blacksmith, a small sawmill, some steam engines, antique farm equipment and you have a first class year round educational attraction with working demonstrations on a rotating basis.

If anything is changed or developed at Ada County’s fairground site it should be for the benefit of every citizen in the county and not aimed to benefit politicians and developers. Traditionally county fairs provided a common link between urban and rural life. What better way to make that link permanent than with an historic theme park?

Before the developers and other special interest groups get their hands on our fairgrounds, the people need to make their voices heard in support of a park-like venue with something for everyone.

The horse races have proven to be an endless round of scandals, lawsuits, and a drain on public resources for the pleasure of a dwindling few. With our new farm park we can give youngsters the opportunity to take a wagon ride behind real “horsepower.”

And yes, there is room for a hotel AND God forbid a convention center!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Grumpy ole guy
    Nov 8, 2013, 7:29 pm

    Or a baseball stadium

  2. For starters, I don’t think the county should be in the fair, gambling, racing, mobile home park, baseball, or wedding event center businesses. That said, to call the fairgrounds a “park” is a stretch. It’s mostly a “parking lot.” The buildings are functional but old. It’s largely an eyesore. I can’t help but think that there are better uses. A nice park along the river is one that I like most. Perhaps some commercial development to put some of it on the tax roles. Look at what was done with Kleiner Park and the adjacent commercial areas. I realize that ditching the fair will not happen. I also realize that Garden City, Boise City, and the County will NEVER sit down and work out a solution like adults (as evidenced by GC vs. everyone on the bike path, Boise City vs. ACHD etc. Just saying.

  3. I like your idea. It is a vast area that would green up the otherwise concrete swath of land. In addition, with something interesting it would attract revenue from outside. Garden City would also benefit it, certainly in an image improvement!

  4. Very Sad! Very Sad, Indeed!!

    Does Garden City Councilman Mike Moser wants a “Legacy” of destroying the only large, relatively undeveloped, parcel in the center of Boise / Garden City. Is his ambition to see more Starbucks or trashy strip malls? Does he covet more tax revenue for the 11,000 population city? There has to be a reason to desire to develop a strip mall on Chinden Avenue with Ada County park land. The fact is, Garden City gets a large park area without having to pay to maintain it. Ada County owns and maintains the land.

    Ada County has preserved a large open space next to the Boise River for the enjoyment of all of our citizens. Much like Central Park in New York City, this large space will become more of a jewel over time as horse racing dies off and the land, with it’s “golf course”, evolves to another public use.

    If short-sighted politicians get their way; their legacy will be to be forgotten or vilified. Citizens, be glad there are no cemeteries in Garden City; would Mike Moser want to find a better use for that land, too?

    The Garden City Master Parks and Pathway Plan created during Mike Moser’s tenure states:
    Parks and pathways are a resource that can provide social benefits to city residents as
    well as the public throughout the community. However, in Garden City’s
    disproportionally large sector of underprivileged citizens, access to parks may produce
    more concentrated benefits. Parks have been attributed to promoting social equity
    through access to affordable recreational activities and improved environmental health
    which reduces direct and indirect costs associated with long term health ailments.
    Moreover, parks are also widely noted for fostering a sense of place which is linked to
    reduction in poverty, increase of education and community involvement, all of which
    are linked to reduction in crime, a large expense for the City.

    Is this the same vision of recent news reports?

  5. Tourism: People don’t go to Colorado to see Denver, and they won’t come to Idaho to see Boise… unless we build something undeniably unique… like the Mall of America… and that’s not within our budget. NO public monies should be involved in building some kind of tourist trap. Let a private enterprise do it.

  6. Grumpy ole guy
    Nov 10, 2013, 12:04 am

    After reading these other, more considered opinions, and giving the matter more thought. And, after reviewing the history of the history of the purpose for the existence of Garden City to provide a place for sin within easy proximity of Government and Business leaders of the Capitol City I have come up with a non-Swiftian modest proposal.

    I think that the County should declare the land to be an Indian Reservation (Tribe to be cooperatively determined) and said tribe(s) and County build a gambling casino on said site, also with a large parking garage, along with a free shuttle bus service to the State Capitol Building during the Session. This will certainly help both the State and County budgets, as well as the Tribal(s) and both Garden City and Boise City budget(s). I would even go further and suggest a joint Garden City and Boise Auditorium District be formed to charge a hotel room tax on off-site rooms adjacent to the Ada Casino for an “improvement district”, whose purpose can be determined by secret ballot at a later date.

    This ballot shall be taken by the appointed Commissioners of the Joint Commission, whose members shall be selected by the Tribal Commission, the Ada County Commission, The Garden City Commission, The Boise city commission and two members at large selected from people using the Green Belt illegally within the restricted area within Garden City on the date of the election.

    As a concession to the use of this former Public Space, atleast 1 % of any profit should be dedicated to drug and alcohol abuse education within the County of Ada per year and administered by the County Sheriff.
    As a part of the agreement the Green Belt shall be ensured and extended throughout the entire length of this space, and maintained by the County until such time as the Casino is operating at level its buildings and grounds crew can take over, or in any case no later than 4 years.

    The Tribal Council shall maintain an exhibit of Indian ponies within easy access for viewing by visitors in a non-fee area for educational purposes at its own expense.
    The County, freed of the expense of maintaining this land should contribute an equal amount of monies to the ACHD each year for road and bridge improvement, adjusting for inflation.

    Anyone who suggests that the County is responsible for sponsoring a fair at tax-payer expense shall be subjected to a public shaming by the Libertarian Party on the 3rd Saturday of odd-numbered months on the steps of the Ada County Courthouse at 12 noon. Improvements and additions to this accepted at any time.

  7. There is an old saying that goes like this: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” While thousands have applied this rule (politicians especially) the problem is sometimes you need to do a tune-up.

    Right now, the fairgrounds complex needs a tune-up including the surrounding area. No Garden City you cannot have it for your own pleasure. The fairgrounds would have been better off locating to the area now occupied by the Village in Meridian, but that is a different story.

    Fairs are still an important part of life. Meridian still has their dairy days even though the farm ground has given way to subdivisions. Canyon County wants to relocate the fairgrounds over difference of opinion between the county and the City of Caldwell. Twin Falls County needs to also improve their fairgrounds, so yes a overhaul is in order.

    Declaring the land to be an “Indian Reservation” would be a good idea for them. Tribes have Tribal Sovereignty, which means that they and they alone would benefit as the tribe does not pay any taxes to the local and state governments. Tribes are also recognized as independent nations. I would actually support the Shoshone-Paiute tribe (closet tribe to Boise) building a casino in Boise. I am certain they would like it too.

  8. Thanks for standing up in public interest for preservation of a historic site that would be destroyed with commercial development.

  9. The city of Redmond. OR did a fantastic job with their fairgrounds. If you ever get a chance check it out. Our cities and politicians lack any vision at all unless it lines the pockets of a crony. Truly pathetic. I work in Garden City and I see it all the time. Mayor John Evans is a joke and only in it for the fancy people who live in Garden City but get to use Boise in their address.

  10. Councilmember Jeff Souza
    Nov 10, 2013, 9:57 pm

    C’mon, Dave. “Greedy Garden City” isn’t trying to steal the Fairgrounds so it can give it away to developers. An agricultural heritage park? Sure. Absolutely. Anything would be an improvement over the present use. We are simply trying to inspire and prod the Ada County Board of Commissioners to think of possibilities beyond historical uses.

    Let’s do an honest reset on the current situation: Vast amounts of acreage tied up with a horseracing operation in need of millions of dollars of repair. Even though it is presently backed by a group of well-heeled investors, even rich folks get tired of losing money in pretty short order. Ada County’s answer–gambling!!–a predatory industry taking advantage of the very citizens that the Commissioners purport to serve. This is private industry holding court on public property and sharing one-quarter of one percent of the revenue north of $10 million. Can and should we expect better? Just look at the baseball/softball fields on the SW part of the property. This is Boise, Idaho! We can’t grow grass? Really? Why can’t those fields be maintained in a way that they are something we are all proud of, as opposed to an utter embarrassment and disgrace? I could go on, and on, and on about the current use(s).

    Could the Greater Boise Auditorium District work with the County to build a convention/exhibit facility? A hotel? Could they host regional agricultural trade shows? What if the County had worked with the newly formed College of Western Idaho shortly after the levy was passed by voters? Could the County have leased existing parcels of land to CWI for 99 years at below market rates and used the money to improve other parts of the property? Think about it. Lots of open space, plenty of parking, great access on state highways to the property, and a schedule that does not conflict with the traditional fair use.

    Ask yourself, how is this valuable public asset currently being used? One answer is that during current air alerts when you can barely see the Foothills, car dealers from all around the Treasure Valley make literally hundreds, if not thousands, of trips in individual cars across the valley in order to park said cars at the Fairgrounds property so they can have “Car Wars”! I don’t want to speak for anyone else on the Council, but I am ready for the County to quit squatting on this valuable public asset, and start a conversation about the possibilities, the future, and what is in the best interest of the citizens of Ada County. I think we can all agree that the present situation leaves much to be desired with plenty of room for improvement.

    EDITOR NOTE–Jeff, I don’t think we are that far apart. The piece was written 6 years ago and there have been only minor fixes. I think I suggested the Convention Center along with the Ag Heritage Park. Horse racing is not much of a year round venue and it sucks up lots of assets.

  11. Upgrade the existing Hawks Stadium. Then build a Convention Center/Event Center. Keep the AG/Historic aspect along with an upgrade. Make it accessible (heck even I would vote for a trolley to and from). Hotel developers will jump at it…especially if its close enough to the river. AND DO IT SOON…Meridian (business developers) is looking at building a dual event/convention center…heck they might as well…they are truly a BIGGER/BETTER destination than Boise with all their “better things to do” (i.e. The Village, etc.) But then again, GBAD, Chamber, CCDC, etc. STILL show no true focus. If Sun Valley can get an extra flight into their airport and Boise ONLY gets a San Diego route…REALLY? I don’t even think Boise is a “third tier” city in the meeting planners’ view anymore. Sad. So much to offer except the truly ONE important ingredient…COOPERATION. (and a larger enough center).

  12. My Two Cents
    Nov 11, 2013, 2:01 pm

    I vaguely recall Ada County commissioned a valuation or at least a review of some sort a few years ago of the Fairgrounds and if it should move elsewhere or how the land could be better used. Let’s look that up, and let’s not recreate the wheel. I think it was by Colliers International if memory services me. Just Googled and found it on the Garden City website:

  13. Every City (or company) has a competitive advantage they should leverage. Garden City should embrace theirs and focus on low quality housing developments like trailer parks and motel to apartment conversions to house the sex offenders and other felons that don’t belong in more respectable parts of town.

  14. erico49
    Kleiner Park is an absolute abomination. Impossible to navigate. Not counting the senior center there is only ONE < I repeat ONE parking spot where a person can get out of there car and into the park without crossing a street or pushing a stroller/picnic cart through the grass to get to the sidewwalk. btw the grasses they planted by the event center (thats what this "park" is about, events and money. oh yea, those grasses are cheat grassy and they will go through your dogs foot. I called but the MPD didn't care at all.
    As for the Fairgrounds the article points in a direction that seems like a good move forward for all of us.

  15. JJ… kinda off the subject… isn’t it?

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