The Hailey City Council will hold a presentation on Monday, June 14, on alternatives to the city’s proposed 33-site campground in Croy Canyon.
If approved, the campground would be built on 29 acres of city land along the south side of Croy Creek Road, abutting the Wood River Land Trust’s Simons-Bauer Preserve west of Lions Park. It would offer pull-in RV sites, picnic tables, ADA-compliant vault toilets and other amenities for a nightly fee and would close every year for the winter.
The proposed campground has stirred controversy since it went before the City Council in January. On Jan. 25, Mayor Martha Burke and the council split on whether to send in a grant application to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to fund the project.
While Councilwomen Kaz Thea and Heidi Husbands found the proposal rushed and suggested a longer, more robust community outreach process, Burke and Councilman Juan Martinez—the most vocal supporters of the project—said it would offer a cheaper alternative to lodging and help meet the needs of less-experienced campers.
“It’s going to be crucial to have this infrastructure ready to go,” Martinez said at the time.
Last Friday, Hailey was awarded $710,840 from the State to fund the project. It has 60 days to either accept or reject the grant award.
Project divides community
Dozens of residents showed up to speak about the campground—a vast majority in opposition—at several well-attended council meetings in the spring.
Nearby homeowners were primarily concerned about noise, littering, traffic bottlenecks near the Bullion Road Bridge and high winds out Croy Canyon that could blow embers out of campfire rings. Other residents worried about impacts to moose and other wildlife that migrate through the area, possible chemical runoff into Croy Creek and impacts to the valley’s aquifer.
Strong objections to the campground were also voiced at a Wood River Fire Protection District board meeting in March. In an April letter, Chairman Jay Bailet, Secretary Dennis Kavanaugh and Treasurer Steven Garman urged Hailey officials to consider a new site away from Croy Canyon’s “dry sage, willows in the river bottom, cottonwood trees and dry grasses.”
The letter contended that Wood River Fire & Rescue, which responds to Croy Canyon, would be frequently called to wildfires originating from the site.
“Generators, motorcycles, ATVs, fireworks, smoking and safety chains from camper trailers are all sources of ignition that would be introduced into this very arid environment,” the fire commissioners stated. “This property is obviously a choke point for Croy Canyon … [S]hould fire erupt at the mouth of Croy, asking residents, many with livestock, to take Rock Creek [Road] out with horse trailers is not realistic. Evacuation of 90-plus property owners plus the 33 campers … is a recipe for disaster.”
Others who opposed Croy Campground felt that the Bellevue area’s three main campgrounds—Silver Creek West, Hayspur and Stanton Crossing—would be “close enough” for RV users visiting Hailey.
Supporters, however, said the campground’s near-downtown location would encourage campers to patronize local restaurants and businesses, stimulating the economy, and nightly campground fees would bolster city revenue and support Hailey’s police and fire departments.
Other supporters said concentrating RVs and tents close to town would prevent ecosystem damage caused by makeshift RV camps elsewhere. The campground would also provide a safe spot for Hailey residents who could become or are currently homeless due to the valley’s escalating housing shortage, some noted.
One Hailey business owner who spoke to the Express last week on the condition of anonymity explained why she supported the campground. In May, she said, her landlord “very suddenly” decided to sell the home that she had been renting for over a decade. As of last Wednesday, she and her child, dog and cat were sleeping in her office.
“It’s been impossible to find a two- or three-bedroom house for [long-term] rent in Hailey, and then you throw in the dog and cat and it’s even more impossible,” she said. “We’re homeless. That’s crazy. But we’re going to get through it.”
The woman added that she plans to buy an RV if she’s still unable to find housing this summer. If built in time, Croy Campground “could be a good temporary solution,” she said.
A current snapshot of Hailey’s housing supply from Community Development Director Lisa Horowitz depicts a rapidly changing market. Historically, the city has been a community of full-time residents, but its share of seasonally occupied vacation homes is on the rise, she said. Today, 660 out of Hailey’s approximately 3,400 units—nearly one in five—are second homes. In comparison, the city had zero second homes in 1990, 168 in 2000 and 372 in 2010.
Residents seek alternatives
According to Horowitz, Hailey acquired the Croy Canyon parcel in 2019 from the Blaine County School District with the intention of using it for a “public purpose,” such as a snow storage site, campground, care facility or educational center. The parcel has remained unused except for its far northern tip, which stores snow in winter.
In March, the city and the Wood River Land Trust began to solicit community feedback on how the parcel should be developed, if at all. Over 50 residents showed up at two workshops to provide input, which was compiled into a report that will be shared at Monday’s council meeting.
Eventually, that public input will be incorporated into the Hailey Greenway Master Plan, according to the Land Trust.
Several stakeholders at the spring workshops suggested that the city should develop walking trails on the parcel or preserve the area for conservation. Many offered up their own ideas about where the campground should be moved—Rock Creek Road, Quigley Canyon, Roberta McKercher Park or the light-industrial area along Woodside Boulevard, to name a few.
According to its website, the Land Trust “would undergo fundraising efforts for an acquisition” if Hailey decides to sell portions of the Croy Canyon lot and relocate its proposed campground.
“At this time, we can accept pledges toward purchase of the city of Hailey’s parcel in Croy Canyon,” the Land Trust stated. “We appreciate your support, and if there comes a time when the city is a willing seller of that property, we can contact you about your wish to donate to the project.”