Goodbye to an eyesore in Eagle

Snow park operator buys, starts cleanup at dilapidated Lazy J site as an adjunct to operations

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comApril 25, 2014 

Lazy J.JPG

Jim Prescott’s Lazy J Tavern reached its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. In the ensuing decades, it fell into disrepair after the owner became ill. The property is adjacent to the Eagle Sports Park.

ROGER PHILLIPS — rphillips@idahostatesman.com

  • EAGLE FINALIZES PARK PURCHASE

    After months of meetings, negotiations and paperwork, the city of Eagle finally closed this month on purchasing a portion of the Ada-Eagle Sports Complex from Ada County.

    The city purchased 48.83 acres from the county for $172,190.50.

    Part of the land the city purchased includes the BMX park and a section of land to be used for a snow park, which Ryan Neptune and his company, Gateway Parks, will build and operate. The snow park is slated to open by Thanksgiving, temperatures permitting.

    For more than a decade, the city has had a 99-year, no-cost lease with the county to improve and operate the 267-acre park, located off Horseshoe Bend Road. Last summer a dispute arose between the two agencies when the city entered an agreement with Gateway Parks to build a snowboard and terrain park at the park. The county said this was not allowed under the lease agreement. To resolve the dispute the county agreed to sell some of the park to the city.

    With this purchase complete, Eagle Parks and Recreation will maintain trails within its property; Ada County will take over management of the remaining 218 acres.

Eagle City Councilwoman Mary McFarland toured the Lazy J Tavern site on Horseshoe Bend Road last fall. It wasn't the nearly dozen junked vehicles and piles of debris strewn among the network of ramshackle buildings that concerned McFarland; it was the public safety threat.

The site, a former tavern, sporting goods store and residence, had been unoccupied for at least a year after its owner's death. In one room, the ceiling and floor had collapsed. Scattered about were hundreds of prescription bottles, she said. In another room, a space heater was running - its cord red-hot, the electrical box charred.

"The whole place and Foothills could have burned up," she said.

Now the site is the focus of a Herculean cleanup. Gateway Parks purchased the two acres in January.

The company, which builds and operates urban snow parks, plans to clear the site and build a storage and maintenance facility for its two terrain and tubing parks - one at the nearby Eagle Sports Park, the other at Eagle Island State Park.

On Wednesday, Gateway's George Transtrum and Dax Thompson continued the arduous task of sorting through everything on the property.

"We are working with Pacific Steel and Recycling and other recyclers," Transtrum said. "We are trying to reuse and recycle as much as possible, so hopefully that will make a lot less we have to take to the landfill."

Cleanup began a couple of months ago and is expected to take another two months at least.

The company plans to construct a building to store and maintain Sno-Cats and snow-making equipment on the property this year. In the future, if market conditions warrant, Gateway might add bike rentals and a restaurant or brewpub.

McFarland said any improvements are welcome at the site.

"It's going from eyesore to asset," McFarland said.

TWO SNOW PARKS

Gateway Park's pilot project over the winter at Eagle Island State Park proved so successful, the state signed a 10-year contract with the company.

Last month, the city of Eagle closed on the purchase of a portion of the county-owned Ada-Eagle Sports Complex, clearing the way for Gateway Park's second snow park.

Both parks will make snow and offer terrain and tubing features.

"They will not be identical. They will complement each other. Each will offer a different experience," said Transtrum, a Gateway partner with founder Ryan Neptune.

The Eagle Island facility will change to focus on tubing, with some terrain park features for beginners.

Eagle Sports Park, which is about four times larger, will have features for more advanced snowboarding and skiing, Transtrum explained.

The parks will start making snow as soon as temperatures are low enough to allow it.

"We are hoping we can start making snow the end of October and be open by Thanksgiving at both locations," he said.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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