view of site from space
The Boise River has undergone a decades long transformation from an industrial waterway back to a pristine, natural environment that has become the signature feature of the City of Trees. This section of the Boise River was channelized and it has become a long-standing dream of environmentalists and paddling enthusiasts alike to return it to a more natural condition and expand its use to include a whitewater park.
The Boise River Recreation Park is part of the Boise River Recreation and Management Plan that was developed by a team of citizens; representatives of local, state and federal natural resource agencies; and a private consulting firm. The plan was adopted by the Boise City Parks & Recreation Commission and Boise City Council in December 1999, the plan considered public safety, recreation use, river access, water quality, river bank stabilization, the river riparian zone and other natural and man made features and uses such as irrigation.
Sites chosen for the River Recreation Park were based on criteria outlined in the River Management Plan. Specific consideration was given to the existing irrigation diversions and the safety hazards they present the public; improvements that can be made to the existing river riparian zone; fish habitat improvements; and recreation access.
In 2003, Recreation Engineering and Planning Inc. of Boulder, Colorado, was hired to analyze several sites on the Boise River and provide recommendations about the development of a park consistent with the objectives of the Boise River Management Plan. The consultants produced a Site Evaluation and Design Report. In the Site Evaluation and Design Report, Recreation Engineering and Planning recommends the ideal location for the River Recreation Park is between Main Street and Veteranís Memorial Parkway adjacent to Esther Simplot Park.
A team of community volunteers known as Friends of Parks has been working with Boise Parks & Recreation staff to fundraise for and build the Boise River Recreation Park. The goal is to transform the river into a more natural riparian setting, improve fish habitat, stimulate economic development and provide a convenient location for water sports enthusiasts near downtown. The first phase of the park, rebuilding the Thurman Mill Dam, was initiated in June of 2010 when the Thurman Mill Irrigation District signed an historic agreement with the Friends and the City to allow for the work to proceed. Agreements with downstream water users are pending, but the new Thurman Mill Diversion is nearing completion, complete with Wave Shaper technology and shoreline amenities. For more information on this and future phases of the park, click here .... Boise River History and Park Impact
This section of the river was channelized in the early to mid 1900s and the riparian zone and river bed is marginal for wildlife and fish habitat. Further, the river is not user friendly for recreational access and use. It is believed that these habitat and safety situations can be improved through the development of the Boise River Recreation Park.
Some have questioned the impact the Park will have on Bald Eagles and fish. Since Bald Eagles roost along the Boise River during the winter, the impact to the eagles from the River Recreation and Esther Simplot Park will be minimal. In fact, the impact will likely be positive. Since the River Recreation and Esther Simplot Parks will receive minimal human use during the winter months and both the River Recreation and Esther Simplot Park will improve fish and wildlife habitat, the eagles will likely have an increased food source.
Osprey fish in Bernardine Quinn Pond nearby throughout the year and Bald Eagles fish in the pond during the winter months and the pond is directly adjacent to Esther Simplot and the River Recreation Park.
Concern has been expressed regarding the number of spectators and users that might congregate along the parks and the Greenbelt. City staff has spoken with representatives from several other communities that have developed river parks and inquired about spectators. Representatives of other communities with river recreation parks say that spectators often out number water users and can create concerns if the facility is not properly designed. Today, everyone invovled is working to to the facilities that mitigate user and spectator conflicts and impacts.