The Wood River Land Trust unveiled a plan Thursday to acquire 118 acres of wetlands and sage-covered hillside at the mouth of Croy Canyon to connect to the Draper Wood River Preserve along the Big Wood River.
“Properties like this can make a lasting impact on our community,” Land Trust Executive Director Scott Boettger told a gathering of donors and supporters at the Mountain Humane animal shelter.
Boettger said the $500,000 acquisition would provide for expanded wildlife habitat protection and an opportunity to reconnect the river to the Croy Wetlands, an artesian spring-fed area on the west side of Lions Park. Reduced to ash and dirt about 25 years ago by a wildfire, the wetlands have rebounded and are now a thicket of willows, home to numerous bird species, moose, elk and other animals.
The property the Land Trust seeks to preserve is currently owned by the Simon-Bauer family, descendants of the Friedman family, successful Hailey merchants during the early mining era.
Mountain Humane Executive Director Jo-Anne Dixon told the gathering Thursday that there are many “cross-over” donors who contribute to both the Land Trust and the animal shelter.
“We are excited to know that this will be preserved as open space,” Dixon said.
Boettger said in an interview Tuesday that the Land Trust is about $90,000 shy of its funding goal.
The Land Trust has worked for years to create the Hailey Greenway, a riparian area connected by bridges and trails in west Hailey. If successful, the new acquisition would result in a total of 468 acres in a three-mile corridor of contiguous wildlife preservation and public access in the Hailey Greenway, from Colorado Gulch to the animal shelter.
The northern half of the Hailey Greenway stretch of the Big Wood River has been straightened in years past to allow development along its banks, a plan that consultants and Land Trust staff now say has increased the risk of residential flooding downstream by depositing more “bedload” of sand and rock there.
Boettger said Thursday that the Land Trust has plans to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Hailey and Blaine County to remove about 4 feet of old fill material under Lions Park, so the river can once again flood westward into the Croy Creek wetlands at a historic meander point.
“We know that this is the best chance to deal with the cause of the destructive flooding downstream in the Della View neighborhood,” Boettger said. “It would alleviate the concentration of energy, the volume of water.”
Boettger was quoted in a 2017 Idaho Mountain Express story as saying that a “sediment trap” meander at Lions Park could be one solution to the flooding problem in Della View and resemble a similar meander that forms a pond at Hulen Meadows north of Ketchum.
A 20-year Hailey Greenway master plan includes recreation opportunities, wildlife sanctuaries and riparian restoration projects along a 1.5-mile stretch of the river from the Croy Canyon bridge in the north to the Colorado Gulch bridge in the south. The plan calls for a kayak play wave and pond at Lions Park.
Proposed flood-control berms, from the Bow Bridge to War Eagle Drive, are estimated to cost about $1.25 million and would protect homes and streets in the Della View neighborhood.
The Wood River Land Trust, founded in 1994, has helped to protect more than 20,000 acres from development through conservation easements in and around the Wood River Valley.