BOISE — After a three-year hiatus, hang gliders and paragliders on Wednesday resumed a 35-year tradition of launching from a plateau overlooking the Boise River near Lucky Peak Reservoir.
"We're glad to have this back. We're glad it's not a development," said Patrick Harper, a 12-year paragliding veteran.
The gliders have been shut out since March 2010, when the city of Boise purchased the 700-acre Hammer Flat - once slated to become a 1,350-home development - in a short sale for $4.1 million.
The city closed the property to the public, including hang gliders who had used the spot for decades, while it worked out a deal with Idaho Fish and Game to purchase the property from Boise for wildlife habitat.
Hammer Flat is adjacent to Fish and Game's 36,000-acre Boise River Wildlife Management Area, which provides critical winter range to deer and elk.
Last summer, Fish and Game was finally able to buy Hammer Flat for $4.23 million. Fish and Game immediately opened the property to the public, but kept it closed to hang gliding because aircraft cannot be launched or retrieved within Fish and Game wildlife management areas without a special permit.
Fish and Game and members of the local hang gliding association then started working on a solution.
In March, the department issued a special-use permit allowing gliders to use the area atop Hammer Flat from May 1 to Nov. 15, a less critical time for the area's hoofed wildlife. The wildlife area remains closed to vehicles Nov. 15 to May 1.
"It's the only beginner-friendly launch. It's mostly grassy rolling hills," said Marshall Sinclair, who took the first flight Wednesday. "Everywhere else it's rocky ledges."
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell