The Wood River Land Trust conservation organization has pledged to donate $500,000 to the city of Ketchum’s campaign to preserve approximately 65 acres of open space at Warm Springs Ranch.
Earlier this year, the city was offered the opportunity to purchase the privately-held land northwest of downtown Ketchum for $9 million. The terms included raising $4.5 million by Oct. 28 and the remainder by April 28, 2022. Since then, the property owner extended the first deadline to Dec. 31.
If the funds are raised to purchase the property, the land—which would be called Warm Springs Preserve—will be kept as open space as a public park and natural area.
As the population of the Wood River Valley grows, the pressure on outdoor recreational areas will increase, especially those that are at the urban-rural interface, the city stated in a news release. The project is aligned with the mission of the Land Trust, it stated.
“Our community needs areas close to town where people of all ages and abilities can experience nature and open space,” said Scott Boettger, executive director of the Land Trust. “These areas are most at risk for development and equally most important to save.”
Mayor Neil Bradshaw called the Land Trust “the perfect partner to help save this land and restore the creek and riparian area.”
“The Wood River Land Trust hopes that its commitment of $500,000 toward the Warm Springs Preserve will encourage other community members to give generously to complete this campaign,” the city news release states.
The city is working to raise the $9 million—plus an additional $1 million for restoration and maintenance of the land—through donations from the community, with the Spur Community Foundation serving as custodian of the funds raised.
To date, the campaign has raised $2.8 million, the city stated. The sum includes a $1 million donation by a Warm Springs Preserve Committee member.
The Land Trust was once itself considered a front runner to purchase and preserve the property, though those talks fell through last year.
The Warm Springs Ranch site—which for many years featured a golf course, tennis courts and a popular restaurant—for the last decade has been used by many people as a park and dog-walking area. It includes Warm Springs Creek, grassy areas and some natural, forested areas near the flanks of Bald Mountain.
The 78-acre property is owned by Sun Valley developer Bob Brennan. He is developing an approximately 14-acre area of the site near Warm Springs Road with 35 lots for single-family homes.
The option agreement to purchase the property from Brennan states that the land must be preserved and maintained as a passive park and natural area for the public. It cannot be converted to other uses.
The city has stated that priorities for the preserve would include off-leash dog access, creek and habitat restoration, a new water-efficient irrigation system, walking trails, informal gatherings and activities, Nordic ski and snowshoe trails, and public restrooms. Restrictions on the property would include development, organized sports and reserved private or commercial events, such as weddings.
If the sale of the remainder of the property to the city is not completed, the zoning of the land would allow Brennan—or potentially another developer—to submit applications to develop the seven parcels there. Brennan has said that developing that acreage on the south side of the site is not his preference and that he would like to see the city own the land.