Boise wouldn't be Boise without it Foothills, its river or its Greenbelt.
Which is intriguing, considering that Boise didn't always love its river.
During the city's first century, the Boise River was a dumping ground for trash, industrial waste and raw sewage - even animal waste from the zoo. The river's banks were foreboding, too, overgrown with brambles.
The city hired California consultants in the mid-1960s who pointed out that, treated right, the river could become Boise's greatest asset.
Bill Onweiler, a city councilman at the time, and Gordon Bowen, director of Parks and Recreation, started talking about transforming the ignored stretch along the water into something better.
Onweiler, who died in 2010, Bowen and others championed the cause, even petitioning Sen. Frank Church to secure the first funds to start the project (a stretch of the Greenbelt is now named for Church's widow, public lands advocate Bethine Church).
In 1969, city leaders appointed the city's first Greenbelt and Pathways Committee. For the next three decades, a long line of committee volunteers advised the mayor and council by identifying parcels to buy, working out path designs and finding money.
The committee followed a basic principle that still stirs emotion: "Preserve for the public, in perpetuity, unrestricted access to the river and the special and unique forms of recreation it provides."
With most of the Greenbelt complete, the committee dissolved in 1997.
The city celebrated the Greenbelt's 30th anniversary in 1999. Workers buried a time capsule near a stone marker east of the former Wheels R Fun building in Shoreline Park. The capsule contains written memories from Boise residents as well as letters from then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Mayor Brent Coles and Jim Hall, former director of Boise Parks and Recreation.
The city will open the capsule in 2019, the Greenbelt's 50th anniversary.
Gordon Bowen still lives in Boise. He served as director of Parks and Rec from 1956 to 1978. In 1983, the city dedicated a park named for him at 11th and O'Farrell in Boise's North End.
Æ Don't miss: Sesqui-Speaks: "History of the Greenbelt and Parks," a talk by Jennifer Stevens about the history of Boise's famous pathway, parks and green spaces, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Foothills Learning Center, 3188 N. Sunset Peak Road, Boise.
Anna Webb: 377-6431