On the day after the city of Hailey denied annexation of property for a proposed 440-home development in Quigley Canyon, landowner David Hennessy posted no trespassing signs to keep hikers off trails long used to access hills on the north side of the canyon.
The signs, posted on Thursday, May 24, state, "We are sorry but due to the city of Hailey's recent denial of our annexation proposal we can no longer provide public access to this property."
Hennessy stated in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express that he was out of town, and declined to immediately comment on the trail closures.
Also on Thursday, Hennessy hired a backhoe operator to dig a 100-foot-long, 2-foot-deep trench along Quigley Road, presumably to keep people from parking at the mouth of the canyon on his property.
County officials were alerted to the trench digging and asked the workers to stop.
"If any work is desired to be done in the county right of way, a permit needs to be filed," said County Operations Director Char Nelson.
The trenches were filled in the day they were dug.
A group of disgruntled hikers, some of whom said they had used the trail for decades, gathered Thursday afternoon at the mouth of Quigley Canyon to share their feelings after seeing the signs.
"I understand that he owns land up that hillside, but closing it off within 24 hours of being denied annexation is pretty childish," said Quigley Road resident Galen Hanselman, one of the aspiring hikers, in a later interview.
Hanselman said he has been hiking the trail to the top of Buttercup Mountain since he was attending Hailey High School in the early 1960s.
Hennessy said last week that he would proceed with development of eight lots in an area deemed important by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to wintering wildlife above Quigley Pond, about 2.5 miles east of the closed trails.
"Why does developing eight parcels further out Quigley above the pond demand cutting off access to a very popular hiking trail miles away from the development?" asked Hailey resident Marnie Prentice in an interview.
After the City Council denied Hennessy's request for annexation, he told the Idaho Mountain Express that the city could have negotiated the degree of housing density he was requesting.
"This notion that we could have negotiated is absolute news to me," said Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle. "The first time I heard about a willingness of the developer to negotiate with us about density, access or anything is when I read about it in the newspaper. We don't roll the rock. If people want to negotiate with us they are certainly free to do that."
Haemmerle said the trail closures at the mouth of Quigley Canyon and Hennessy's plan to shut down Nordic skiing at the site as "sad."
"People do philanthropic things because they want to do good things, not because they want something in return," he said.
Referring to the city's denial of the annexation request, Haemmerle said his job "first and foremost is the financial health of this city."
"Roads and parks are in poor shape," he said. "We have cut staff from 70 to 59 positions. Why would now be a good time to expand?"
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org