The Hailey City Council on Monday approved Mayor Martha Burke’s signature on a $500,000 grant application to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation for what could become the city’s first established campground.
If built, the Croy Creek Campground would sit on a city-owned parcel between Rotarun Ski Area and Lions Park, just north of the Wood River Land Trust’s new Simons Bauer preserve.
According to renderings from Hailey-based Lyon Landscape Architects, the campground would encompass 33 campsites—24 RV sites and nine camping areas with designated tent platforms and parking spots.
Community Development Director Lisa Horowitz said campers would be provided with potable water, dishwashing stations, two ADA-compliant vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings with grills, a bike tent storage area and benches. Sites would be set apart by about 25 feet with native shrubbery in between, she said
“Our overall goal is a ‘tread lightly’ campground in a high-desert riparian ecosystem. We would expect a lot of educational and outreach materials about how to go light on the landscape,” Horowitz said Monday.
The campground would be open from around the end of May until about the end of October and would not be available in the winter due to wintering wildlife and maintenance needs. Wildlife-friendly fencing would help delineate the property from Simons Bauer Preserve, she said.
Horowitz noted that the current site is “fairly denuded” at the moment with hampered sage growth due to sheep-trailing activity every year. Following its restoration, the Croy Creek Campground would draw on themes of sustainability, she said, with possible infrastructure to capture snowmelt and recycle water from dishwashing and restroom facilities.
Interpretive signs would introduce visitors to the area’s history, nearby hot springs and native flora and fauna, such as Great Basin rattlesnakes and desert horned lizards. The campground, however, would not offer a “full wilderness camping experience,” Horowitz said, but rather would serve as a launching pad to explore nearby trails and Hailey’s downtown core.
In a public comment session Monday, Mike McKenna, executive director of The Chamber of Hailey & the Wood River Valley, called the proposal “thrilling” and “a great investment.”
“We get multiple requests every day for camping and have had to say ‘Sorry, keep driving,’” he said. “This … will help keep people local. They won’t he driving up north of Ketchum to camp--they’ll be staying here, supporting our restaurants and our retail.”
Horowitz added that the campground would give nonresidents a cheaper alternative to hotels and short-term rentals and allow people to camp during special occasions, like Trailing of the Sheep. Parking spots for ‘Class B’ recreational vehicles, such as Sprinter cargo vans, would also be included, she said.
Mayor Martha Burke commented on the surge in popularity of ‘Class B’ camping during the pandemic.
“People have decided if they’re going to travel, they’re going to travel self-contained,” she said. “COVID has brought out the Sprinter crowd, the [van life] movement.”
Council President Kaz Thea suggested a weeklong stay limit and a campsite host, who would live on-site and manage noise and littering concerns.
“We should build in an on-site host from the get-go to man this place, for safety reasons and for questions that may come up,” she said.
Councilwoman Heidi Husbands suggested a fee of $35 per night and agreed that a shorter stay limit could bring in more guests.
“I think [$35] is reasonable for being so close to town and having a camp host to [direct] people into town,” she said.
Land Trust Deputy Director Amy Trujillo said Monday that she hoped to work with the city and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to identify wildlife corridors in the area and ensure campers would not disrupt the neighboring preserve and its trails.
“I assure you that the Land Trust will be a valuable partner as we discover this next use,” Burke told Trujillo. “You’re critical.”