The project to transform a stretch of Boise Greenbelt into a pocket park began with a walk through the brambles.
Back in 2014, John Biggs, a member of the Boise Metro Rotary Club, was looking for a project centered on the Greenbelt, one of his favorite Boise amenities. He called Jerry Pugh, the volunteer coordinator with the Boise Department of Parks and Recreation, to ask about possibilities.
“Jerry said, ‘Let’s go for a walk,’” recalled Biggs.
They set off along the south side of the Boise River, not far from Joe’s Crab Shack. The city had just received a federal grant to complete the last stretch of Greenbelt within city limits, between the restaurant and Ann Morrison Park. The grant, though, did not include money for a much-wanted small grassy area for people to stop, rest and admire the view.
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“That was intriguing,” said Biggs.
The city completed that final stretch of Greenbelt in 2016. Rotary committed to creating a small park on the river bank between the Connector and the 1923 rust-colored railway — now bike and pedestrian — trestle bridge.
“We realized the project was probably too big for us,” said Biggs, so Boise Metro Rotary Club enlisted help from the Boise Centennial and Eagle/Garden Rotary clubs. The organizations recently started a fundraiser and are hoping to raise $60,000 to pay for the project through grants, sponsorships and by selling commemorative bricks for the park.
Rotary Park will include benches for a river view, a bike repair stand, a Little Free Library dispensing books, a dog waste station and historical interpretive signs that include information about the Greenbelt and Rotary. The centerpiece of Rotary Park will be a monument shaped like the state of Idaho and dedicated to Col. Pinkney Lugenbeel. He was the Army officer who established Fort Boise in 1863. Lugenbeel camped near the Rotary Park site.
The Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers placed the monument on a nearby slope in the 1930s. The park project includes restoring the long-neglected monument and reinstalling it in a more prominent place — the center of the new park.
Rotary Park will give people a place to stop and enjoy the river, not to mention provide services on a long stretch of Greenbelt that had been without them, said Toby Norton, city parks manager.
Neither the new 2016 stretch of Greenbelt at the Rotary Park site nor the pedestrian tunnels under Main and Fairview have suffered damage from high water in the Boise River.
“Lots of planning went into that,” said Norton, noting that other new construction, such as the tunnels under the rebuilt Broadway Bridge, are also in good shape.
“They have not seen water yet, even with flows over 9,000 cfs (cubic feet per second),” said Norton.
For Biggs, Rotary Park will be another step in the evolution of the Boise River as a local treasure.
Rotary Clubs are also working on improvements at Julia Davis Park, including a Rotary Grand Plaza, now under construction and set for a ribbon cutting June 15.
“Back in the 1960s, there were slaughterhouses in this area. The zoo washed animal waste into the river. It was a trash dump. But finally, people recognized the river as a valuable asset. So here we are, 50 years later. The Greenbelt is completed, and the river is beautiful,” said Biggs.
Support the project
Buy a personalized, commemorative brick with three size options, ranging in price from $50 to $95. Visit the Rotary Club of Boise Metro website, boisemetrorotary.org for more details.