The recent acquisition of 258 acres by Boise in the central Foothills continues the tradition of making the most of our public dollars.
When voters passed the Foothills Levy in 2001, using these funds efficiently was one of its goals. According to Boise Parks and Recreation Director, Doug Holloway, the $10 million Foothills levy fund has protected nearly 11,000 acres through purchases, donation, conservation easements or land exchanges. By any measure this has been a wildly successful initiative.
Several years ago, citizens formed the Hillside to the Hollow coalition to raise awareness of the importance of the land in this area as another jewel of open space strung along the lower Foothills. The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley took notice.
When Harrison Hollow, a 59-acre entryway to the central Foothills, was put up for sale, the Foothills fund had been spent down. With the blessing and encouragement of Mayor Bieter and council members Maryanne Jordan and Elaine Clegg, the Land Trust set out on a mission to protect a community icon.
"We used to ride our bikes as kids into all these places," said Mayor Bieter. "We must save Harrison Hollow".
With support from a willing seller, the Land Trust was able to raise the private funds to buy the land in late 2011. Over 700 individuals, families, foundations and businesses contributed to its purchase. A permanent endowment has been created to help fund ongoing stewardship forever and is invested with the Idaho Community Foundation.
The purchase of open space entirely with donated funds had never been accomplished in the Foothills before. The Idaho Statesman called it a "holiday gift to the community."
With this successful acquisition, the cornerstone and entryway of the larger Hillside to the Hollow area was conserved, but there was more work to do. The adjacent land was for sale and its future remained uncertain.
After the Foothills fund was replenished from the sale of Hammer Flat to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the stage was set. The remaining land was owned by 51 investors spread around the country. Securing an agreement with so many owners was not simple or easy. But Boise staff worked hard to address the needs of the taxpayers and the sellers. A deal was reached.
The day the city bought the land it automatically grew by the Land Trust's 59-acre Harrison Hollow property, creating an even larger open space reserve.
Yet again, the levy money was enhanced. Protecting nature is what makes living in Boise unique and is part of what has been shown to be an economic enhancement tool. It's what will help us be the most livable community in the nation, a goal set by Mayor Bieter.
Nature close to home has been saved forever and citizens played an important role, both in creating the Foothills levy in 2001 and again in raising private funds to buy the first parcel of the Hillside to the Hollow area. Future generations, some who have not yet been born today, will enjoy the land set aside by these efforts.
You, the citizens of today, will be a quiet and unknown ancestor who played a part in leaving this legacy of land for people and wildlife.
Tim Breuer is executive director, Land Trust of the Treasure Valley.