Eagle plows ahead with plans for snow park

Ada officials oppose what they call ‘inappropriate’ work, since no city-county agreement has been reached.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comOctober 31, 2013 

The Treasure Valley figures to see its first snow flurries of the season before long, and the city of Eagle doesn’t want to wait to get started building a park for tubing and skiing — even if the land’s owner doesn’t agree.

Eagle Mayor Jim Reynolds said Wednesday that the city is giving park developer Ryan Neptune permission to proceed, saying the city “fully intends ... to honor” its agreement with Neptune.

Eagle has a 99-year, no-cost lease with Ada County for the 263-acre Eagle-Ada Sports Complex off Horseshoe Bend Road. The city says the terrain park contract is allowed under the lease agreement; the county says it is not.

Even though the Eagle City Council in late August approved a contract with Neptune to build the park at the sports complex, the city and Neptune had held off on executing the contract until it could get the county’s blessing.

Until Wednesday.

Ada County officials are not happy with Reynolds’ move.

“The board feels it is inappropriate for any work to begin on the proposed snowboard park until such time as a satisfactory agreement has been reached on lease terms with Eagle, or Eagle has reached agreement to purchase the property,” said Larry Maneely, spokesman for the Ada County Board of Commissioners.

Maneely would not speculate on any action the county might take if construction starts without an agreement.

‘A GOOD THING FOR EVERYBODY’

Reynolds said he’s not backing down.

“We have a contract with Ryan,” Reynolds said. “We have been looking for things to raise money for our parks.”

Under the contract, Neptune will purchase, install and operate the terrain park equipment. The city will get 10 percent of all lift-ticket sales.

In addition to providing revenue for park maintenance and improvements, and an after-school activity for kids, the project would introduce a new generation of kids to winter sports, Reynold said. That will benefit Bogus Basin and other area ski resorts, he said.

“This is a good thing for everybody,” Reynolds said.

Neptune said that his goal is partnering with financially strapped public parks to create terrain parks and build interest in skiing and snowboarding. He has similar projects built or under way in Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.

“The park districts have gigantic footprints they cannot afford to maintain. We can help them and they can help us by growing the sport. It is a symbiotic relationship,” said Neptune, a Boise native and former U.S. snowboard champion.

QUICK TURNAROUND

Neptune said he isn’t worried about the two-month delay in getting the park started. He said he can still get it built and open for this ski season.

“Ninety percent of the construction can be done in a two-week period,” he said Thursday from Michigan, where he is scouting for a similar project.

Neptune said the park is simple: a conveyor-type lift and snowmaking equipment. He has ordered the $175,000 Eagle lift, which is being built in Italy. Snowmaking equipment can quickly transform several acres of bare slope into a tubing and terrain park.

Earlier this month, Neptune submitted an application to the city’s planning department to install the terrain park features. The staff is reviewing the application, which likely will go before Eagle’s Design Review Board in December.

COULD THE CITY PURCHASE THE LAND?

In an effort to resolve the dispute and gain control of a park in which it has made nearly $2 million in improvements, Eagle expressed an interest in buying some or all of the land it leases from the county.

The city has $400,000 set aside for park land purchases. The city is getting the sports complex appraised, and then will decide what kind of offer it wants to make to the county.

Of the 263 acres the county leases to the city, Eagle has annexed 85 into the city limits. Hiking and biking trails cross the park’s entire 263 acres, and city officials have said Eagle is interested in the entire acreage it has managed for the past 10 years. But Ada County is signalling that it’s not willing to part with all that land.

In an Oct. 10 email, the county’s attorney told Eagle’s city attorney that the commissioners are willing to sell only the 85 acres that have been annexed. The county also said it does not want to continue leasing any property not purchased by Eagle.

On Thursday, the county told the Statesman in a statement that if a purchase agreement or a new lease agreement is not reached, the county “is fully prepared to operate and maintain the trails and amenities on any or all of the property currently being leased by Eagle.”

Ada County officials declined to comment on the possible sale beyond the statement.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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