GUEST OPINION BY
Public Lands Director
The Boise City Planning and Zoning Commission failed to uphold two separate Appeals of permits for Hillside Grading and Flood Plain development to allow construction of a two million dollar Mountain Bike Park in Military Reserve. The Albertson’s Family Foundation would pay for construction, taxpayers for a new Dog Park, bathroom and maintenance. The Foundation wanted the deal kept secret, and City leaders obliged – placing it on a consent agenda at a March 13, 2018 Council meeting. Neighboring property owners were never notified.
The East End Neighborhood Association filed an Appeal of the permits because of the lack of public process and permit deficiencies. The East End knows something about process failures and having officials ignore public concerns. The St. Luke’s expansion cut off their neighborhood from downtown, and created a traffic nightmare which Bike Park traffic would make worse.
An Appeal by conservation groups (WildLands Defense, Friends of Military Reserve and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) highlighted the natural, historical and aesthetic values of Boise’s first Open Space Reserve, the lack of public process in determining the location and development of a Bike Park, and the failure to consider the conflicts and public safety risks associated with putting a Bike Park in a Flood Basin. The Basins were built for public safety in the very erodible and flood prone Cottonwood Creek watershed in response to past severe flood events.
Public testimony at the P&Z meeting is here.
http://boisecityid.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=2552&Format=Agenda . The P&Z Commission spent minimal time discussing the merits of the Appeals before reaching a unanimous decision to deny the Appeals. Their decision is quite likely to be Appealed to City Council.
Plans for the “world class” Bike Park show the Flood Basin will be excavated as much as 15 feet. Large volumes of dirt will be piled up into a “wave field” of bike trails. Some are to be paved, but much of the project is dirt that will erode when flood waters hit, or get worn down over time. A spectator amphitheater is also planned.
The Treasure Valley already has a much larger “world class” Bike Park, the Ada County/Eagle Bike Park. The Foothills surrounding it are shredded with bike trails. This is what will be the inevitable fate of Military Reserve and nearby Open Space areas if the Bike Park gets built. The City and the Albertsons’ Consultant know there already is very heavy public use of the Reserve by walkers, people with dogs, and bikes. Despite this, three new exclusive downhill mountain bike only Thrill Trails have already been proposed — feeding in towards the proposed Bike Park site. A several mile long trail through Highland Land and Livestock (Little family) land and BLM lands is being planned just north of the Reserve. The second trail is near Center Ridge and within the northern Reserve. The third trail would blemish the face of Eagle Ridge, which looks out over the City. The Thrill Trails within the Reserve seem to have been beaten back for now. But they are likely to re-surface if this facility gets built, and spillover use and conflicts explode across the Reserve. There is also concern that the Bike Park and various Thrill Trails are for holding X-Game type events in the Reserve and Foothills.
Reserves are to be managed for their natural, ecological values. The City has been straying from this for quite some time. Trail density has increased greatly, and wildlife habitat has deteriorated. The Reserve is on the National Register of Historic places and a city-recognized Local Historical Landmark. The Bike Park has not even been considered by the Parks and Recreation Commission or Historic Preservation Commission.
The debate over siting a Bike Park in Military Reserve is about the future of Foothills Open Space, and whether the public will have a voice in its fate. Will places people worked so hard for so long to protect suddenly be turned over for amusement park type uses based on secret City deals with monied interests — without any legitimate public process?
Long time Boise Parks Board member Alice Dieter, now 90 years old, recently expressed her views on Open Space protection:
“I just can’t believe that anybody is still talking about putting stuff in Open Space. After we fought so long and so hard and had so many problems for Open Space … And you get it, and somebody wants to fill it up because it’s Open. It’s not the way to go.”
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