Last fall, a committee of 23 hikers, trail runners, trail users with disabilities, mountain bikers, equestrians, parents, and representatives of five land-management agencies and three nonagency partner organizations sat down together. Our assignment: to hash out a plan for guiding the Ridge to Rivers trail system in the Boise Foothills for the next 10 years. Bringing varied backgrounds and interests to the table, we were united by one common thread: a deep love and appreciation for the Foothills and the trail system, which, we believe, makes the city of Boise and the Treasure Valley the best place to live in America.
We are proud to have volunteered to serve for the past several months on that advisory committee to Ridge to Rivers, which is a partnership between the city of Boise, Ada County, the Bureau of Land Management Four Rivers Field Office, the Boise National Forest and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that manages over 190 miles of trails in the Foothills. Now our efforts, several public meetings and feedback received online from the public have culminated in a draft 10-year management plan for the Ridge to Rivers trail system.
As a committee, we were tasked with a primary objective of improving trail experiences and opportunities. This plan does not attempt to micro-manage our trails; it provides a high-level blueprint, guided by public input and sustainable resource-management strategies, that’s summarized in its vision statement:
“Our vision for Ridge to Rivers is to sustain and improve upon a vital public trail system spanning the Boise Foothills that provides accessible, diverse and fun recreation opportunities; protects our beautiful natural resources; promotes the physical and emotional health of our people; inspires us to enjoy nature; and remains the enduring pride of our community.”
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We face challenges. The R2R trails receive over one million visits per year, and use is growing. There are sometimes conflicts between users, and we must balance the needs and desires of different groups. We strived to give R2R managers the tools to address those challenges.
We held open houses and conducted online surveys for public input. We received thousands of comments and were heartened that the overwhelming sentiment across user groups was to continue maintaining a multiuse system. This will require intelligent management as well as trail etiquette, respect and courtesy.
This 10-year plan is still a draft. Ridge to Rivers welcomes additional public comment. You can read the draft plan and take a survey at ridgetorivers.org.
Ridge to Rivers operates with one overarching goal: to manage the trail system sustainably, so that future generations can enjoy the same opportunities that we do today.
As members of the committee that drafted this 10-year plan, we embrace that goal enthusiastically and look forward to leaving future generations with a trail system better than the one we use and love today.
Mike Lanza is a trail runner, hiker and mountain biker. Other Ridge to Rivers Trail Plan Committee members contributing: Todd Graeff, Jill and Chris Haunold, Justin Maines, Jeremy Maxand, Larry Ridenhour, Betsy Roberts and Lauri Thompson.