The Wood River Land Trust’s newly acquired 118-acre Simons Bauer Preserve could be open to the public within the year, Lands Program Manager Keri York said Thursday morning.
The preserve—which encompasses a mile of Croy Creek, its accompanying wetlands and city of Hailey and Mountain Humane property—would connect to Draper Preserve and Lions Park, bringing the Hailey Greenway to a total of 475 acres.
The Land Trust acquired the preserve earlier this year thanks to a grant from the national Land Trust Alliance, local community support and a large donation from the Simons/Bauer family, York said.
The Land Trust’s top priority is connecting the Big Wood River just north of Draper Preserve with its natural floodplain at Lions Park—formerly the Hailey City Landfill—and further west to the Croy Creek wetlands. Sections of Croy Creek with steep, eroded banks would be restored with woody structures meant to mimic beaver dams, York said.
“This restoration strategy is becoming popular because it can help restore hydrology and wet meadows [with] natural beaver activity,” she said.
The Land Trust is also angling to excavate old waste beneath Lions Park to allow the river to reconnect to its floodplain, a move that could mitigate destructive flooding downstream in Della View.
“It is amazing to see the transformation of Lions Park and surrounding areas from a once abused and neglected portion of Hailey to its crown jewel—from dump to treasured landscape,” Land Trust Executive Director Scott Boettger said Thursday.
On the public access front, the Land Trust is looking to partner with the city and Mountain Humane to design and construct an elevated boardwalk and several nature trails that would link Lions Park to the Mountain Humane parking lot. York noted that trails would be designed with accessibility and sensitive wildlife habitat in mind.
“We’d really like to pursue ADA-type trails wherever appropriate to allow people of all abilities to experience this property,” she said during a Monday council meeting.
The Land Trust will also be working with the city of Hailey and other stakeholders this year to further design the Lions Park area of the Hailey Greenway Master Plan. York said on Monday that recreational amenities, including restroom facilities, a pavilion and interpretive signage, are currently proposed for Lions Park.
Preliminary renderings for the park presented by York during Monday’s meeting depicted an ADA-accessible fishing platform along the Big Wood River near Bullion Bridge, a play wave and boat launch area south of the platform and a recreational pond on the eastern side of the park. York, however, did not confirm on Thursday that the Land Trust would be pursuing any of those amenities and instead offered a general statement.
“We plan to incorporate recreational elements so that the community and visitors can experience our natural areas,” she said.
Visitors can get a preview of Simons Bauer Preserve—and its ecologically rich wetland habitat—via Simons Bauer Loop, opened by the Land Trust earlier this year. The quarter-mile hiking trail can be accessed on the west side of Lions Park or across the road from Carbonate Trailhead.
“Waterfowl are nesting this time of year, and the elk are utilizing the wetland for wintering grounds,” Boettger said in a previous statement.
Council President Kaz Thea commended the Land Trust on Monday for its commitment to preserving Hailey’s riverfront areas.
“We look forward to all this new connection,” she said. “I think the restoration elements here are going to be fantastic.”