The city of Boise hopes to close on a 260-acre, $1.9-million deal by mid-May and begin planning trail locations, trailheads, access points and other features that will determine how people use the area.
Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said the city will hold public meetings to hear from hikers, bikers and the general public on how the city should address the trail system, plant life, animal habitat and other resources on the newly acquired land.
The purchase would leave $1.8 million in the city's Foothills fund, created when Boise voters passed a 2001 levy.
One possible way the city could pursue additional Foothills open space: It identified three parcels, totaling 30 acres on the southern and western edges of the land it's buying, that it could trade for Foothills open space, said Jade Riley, Mayor Dave Bieter's chief of staff. Those parcels are suited for residential development, although the city would attach requirements allowing access to Hillside-to-the-Hollow trails as part of any sale.
Ultimately, Riley and Holloway said, the city wants toacquire ground north of the property's western edge in order to connect to larger swaths of public ground and trails in the Boise front.
For years, protecting Hillside-to-the-Hollow trails - named for Hillside Junior High and Harrison Hollow - has been near the top of the wish list for people who hike, bike or otherwise recreate in the Foothills. Their dream appeared in jeopardy when Meridian real estate developer DBSI proposed a massive housing subdivision in the area.
At the tail end of the Treasure Valley's real estate boom, 51 investors paid more than $6 million for stakes in the DBSI project, said Jonathan Kaji, a California man who represents the investors. Kaji said DBSI promised 10 percent annual returns.
After the project fizzled, the investors were able to separate ownership of the land Boise is preparing to buy from DBSI's bankruptcy proceedings. They put the land on the market in 2011 and received a few offers, Kaji said, but none that qualified as legitimate.
"The mood (among the investors) is upbeat that now, finally, we do see a light at the end of the DBSI tunnel," he said. "It's been personally traumatic for most of them."
All along, people have hiked and biked on the property. Concerns about development persisted, and the Hillside to the Hollow Coalition formed with the mission of convincing the city of Boise to preserve the area for public recreation. The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley raised money from the public to buy 58 acres just east of Harrison Hollow in late 2011.
On Tuesday, the City Council is scheduled to vote on giving Bieter authority to execute the sale with the DBSI investors. Assuming that happens, Riley said, both sides have to carry out details of the transaction, such as surveying the land and testing soils to ensure that there's no contamination that would require an expensive cleanup, before closing.
Boise has used its $10 million Foothills fund to protect nearly 11,000 acres through purchases, donation, conservation easements or land exchanges. The total appraised value of that land is more than $33 million, Holloway said.
Kaji said he's looking forward to a trip to Boise in May to close the deal. He might even try to enjoy the Foothills while he's here.
"I like the space because I come from Los Angeles, where we don't have that kind of open space," he said. "I'm a fan of the property and what the city has done to retain open space."
Sven Berg: 377-6275