Ketchum Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Smith told the City Council Monday that a proposed whitewater park north of the city is moving forward, despite the shutdown of the federal government, one of the key players in the project.
“The technical aspects of the plan are coming to life now,” Smith said at the meeting. “There is a method to the madness of recreation resource design. I’m not the designer. I’m the resource manager and I know things that are not designed well are going to bring more problems in the long run, so that’s why I’m excited the design conversation is going so well.”
Smith said consultant S2O design and engineering has made substantial progress on the final design plan since it began working on it in July. She said she is frustrated with the government shutdown because it forced all of the federal employees involved with the project to be furloughed.
The city of Ketchum is attempting to acquire 316 acres of land adjacent to the Big Wood River near Hulen Meadows from the Bureau of Land Management. In 2008, the city filed for a Recreation and Public Purposes patent for the land while partnering with the nonprofit Wood River Land Trust. In January, the patent for the land grant was put on hold because the BLM told the city it did not have the resources to process the plan.
“The technical aspects of the plan are coming to life now.”
City of Ketchum
Ultimately, the city wants to construct a whitewater park and recreational area with parking in the Sun Peak area, near the Hulen Meadows Pond.
Smith said she plans on unveiling 60 percent of the design plan for the public in October or November. The unveiling will occur in a public setting with the entire design team involved, she said. She encouraged the public to comment on detailed elements of the plan and to stay engaged with the process.
Aquatic biologist Steve Fisher, who’s worked with Smith on the project, said the proposed park has room for improvement, but he is still strongly in support of the acquisition.
“I have always been a proponent of the whitewater park and I have always been a proponent of cleaning out Hulen Meadows Pond before anyone else knew it was necessary,” Fisher said. “I’d like to thank Jen (Smith) and the mayor (Randy Hall) for pointing out that if anyone has a problem with this, then they should get together with their representatives, sit down and talk to them about it. An open forum like this is where I want to give my support. There are still some things that need to be fixed, and other things we need in this project.”
In a staff report for the meeting, Smith said that following a kick-off meeting between S2O design and engineering and the city, five conference calls have taken place with the design team and the client. After setting a target date for Aug. 6 to complete the project’s environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, the assessment was officially completed on Aug. 19.
Smith also wrote of new public outreach and education efforts for the proposed whitewater park. There is a panel detailing the park at Ketchum Town Square, along with an updated page about the plan on the city’s website. Mayor Randy Hall also has formed a task force that has agreed to provide information and solicit feedback from citizens and community groups. The BLM will also provide written notice of public opportunities to comment on the project, city officials said.
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