Ada County to sell park land to Eagle

A snow facility builder now must decide whether it would be worthwhile to open a venue this winter.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comJanuary 8, 2014 

A long dispute between Eagle and Ada County is headed toward resolution — good news for terrain park builder Ryan Neptune, who’s been waiting for the city and county to work out their differences.

Now Neptune must decide how to move forward on a terrain park at the Ada-Eagle Sports Park.

Based on the success of a smaller tubing and boarding hill he opened Dec. 31 at Eagle Island State Park, Neptune thinks the community would benefit from — and support — two snow-play locations.

“The kids are in freak-out mode for sure. They are loving it,” he said.

He said he lost two months of prime snow-making conditions, though, and must weigh the amount of time it will take to make snow and install equipment against what’s left of Boise’s winter.

He said he envisions tubing and snowboarding at both facilities, with more tubing features at Eagle Island and more boarding features at Ada-Eagle.

COUNTY STEPS UP

The county commissioners voted 2-1 on Tuesday to sell the city 34 acres and figure out a way to better manage the other 233 acres of the city-operated, county-owned Ada-Eagle complex.

“I think you will find that we are ready to step up … and create something that is even better than what we have today,” Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre told Eagle officials.

The county has a new engineer and new parks director and wants to recommit to improving the community asset, he said.

Commissioner Jim Tibbs encouraged the city to keep working on a master plan for the entire area. “Ada County would love to be a partner and help with that and make that area better than what it is today,” he said.

Yzaguirre and Tibbs voted to accept the city’s offer of $137,800 — roughly $4,000 an acre — for the area that includes the parking lot, skateboard park and a mountain bike trail north of the parking area. The county will retain ownership of the rest of the park.

Commissioner Dave Case voted against the sale, saying the county never intended the land to be used for a commercial venture. He said he also heard neighbors’ concerns about noise and traffic.

The city will use money it had set aside for park land purchases.

When the Eagle City Council voted last month to make a purchase offer, it also voted to terminate the lease agreement on the remaining acreage should a sale go through.

Eagle Mayor Jim Reynolds said Tuesday that he was pleasantly surprised by the county’s decision and heartened by its olive branch to work together. He said he would ask the council to reconsider its decision to terminate the lease.

GANGBUSTERS AT EAGLE ISLAND

“It is a good thing,” Neptune said Tuesday about the city gaining control of the area where the terrain park is planned.

Neptune has been caught in the middle of this dispute since early summer, when the city approved an agreement with him to build the tubing and snowboarding venue at the park. The city has a 99-year, no-cost lease with the county to operate and maintain the park, and the county said a commercial terrain park is not allowed.

“This has never been about Ryan Neptune and his terrain park,” Case said. “I have been out to Eagle Island. I have talked to Mr. Neptune. I have witnessed what he has going on out there. He seems to have an opportunity that the citizens are happy to partake in.”

While he was waiting for the city and county to work things out, Neptune and Idaho Parks & Recreation agreed on one-year pilot project at the state-owned Eagle Island State Park off Linder Road. Neptune went to work, bringing in snow machines and a rope tow. On New Year’s Eve, about 1,400 people attended a free opening.

Starting Jan. 1, regular prices went into effect, with lift tickets costing $10 for a full day, including tube rental. In the first five days of ticketed use, the park had 3,100 visitors, Neptune said.

“It has been amazing,” he said.

Neptune and his crew continue to make more snow and fine-tune the park’s features. He’s raised the hill 12 feet, added a 30-foot jump and lengthened the tubing lane by about 200 feet.

Neptune said he has been having as much fun as the kids. “Every day I have been hurling them down tubing hill,” he said. “It is just too much fun to not do it.”

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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