I am on the board of the Wood River Land Trust and lead a task force working on ways to repair the reach in the Big Wood River upstream from the entrance to Hulen Meadows, restore the pond and preserve the BLM riverfront property downstream to the Sun Peak area. The editorial in the Jan. 8 edition of the Idaho Mountain Express creates some misimpressions about the involvement of the Land Trust in this project, so hopefully this letter can set the record straight.

    The project started when a group of Hulen Meadows homeowners raised money to engage Biota to prepare a concept plan for restoration and preservation of the affected area, including the pond. They were hoping to obtain construction funding in the BLM budget, and approached the Land Trust with a request to serve as the sponsor of the project, to contribute to the cost of an environmental assessment and to obtain a lease from the BLM for the public purpose of operating and maintaining the preserve.

    Unfortunately, the BLM did not include construction funds in its budget, which means that if the project is to proceed, it will require raising private and quasi-public funding for design, permitting, construction and long-term maintenance. To begin with, the BLM will require either that a private organization pay to purchase the property, or that a public entity obtain it free of charge. That is where the city of Ketchum comes in as the logical public entity to take the lead.

    The Express editorial suggests that the Land Trust wants to create something like an amusement park. This misconception probably stems from Mayor Neil Bradshaw’s genuine openness to seeking public input, which gives all kinds of constituencies the opportunity to voice their wish lists. The reality is that the Land Trust wants to create a preserve with a minimalist concept consistent with its goals of improving the health of the Big Wood River, preventing the pond from filling with sediment, preserving environmentally sensitive lands and meeting the BLM’s requirement of public access.

Barry Bunshoft, Sun Valley

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