If you commute on the Boise River Greenbelt in Garden City or West Boise, you probably know about the lack of north-south connections over the river.
For the last two summers, there’s been only one place between Eagle and the I-184 Connector to cross the river without using a major road like Veterans Memorial Parkway, which is under construction.
One crucial non-road connection was lost last spring when the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands removed the Plantation Island Bridge due to erosion from a brutal winter and the flooding that followed.
Now, the foundation is asking the public for $75,000 to help pay to put the bridge back. And it needs the money soon.
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The bridge spanned the river’s south channel between the west end of Plantation Island and the Garden City side of the river near the northeast corner of the fairgrounds. From there, the Greenbelt runs about 500 feet southeast across the island. Another bridge connects the path to the north side of the river just south of the Plantation Golf Course.
Worried erosion would wash the bridge away, the foundation removed it in April 2017.
That has forced Greenbelt users to find other ways to cross the river. Many of them are children on their way to and from school, said Stephani Hilding, the foundation’s secretary-treasurer.
The bridge itself is intact, sitting on the Western Idaho Fairgrounds. The ground that supported the bridge, however, has been washed away. It needs to be replaced before the bridge can be put back.
The foundation estimates this project could cost as much as $200,000. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would reimburse $120,000 of that bill, Hilding said.
The foundation is on the clock to come up with the rest of the money. Hilding said the FEMA grant could expire in April if the foundation doesn’t spend it by then. The bridge has to be replaced in the winter months when the river is low.
Once construction begins, Hilding said, the entire project should only take about three weeks, weather permitting.
A potential delay lurks, however. If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires an environmental impact study before allowing the bridge to be replaced, the project could take a year or more longer to complete, said Judy Peavey-Derr, a member of the foundation’s board of directors.
The foundation is trying to raise $75,000. Hilding said a private benefactor, whom she declined to identify, pledged to front the money that FEMA will pay back. You can donate to the project at IdahoLands.org.
“Every penny that is donated for the bridge restoration will remain for bridge restoration,” Hilding said.
The sooner the foundation gets the money, she said, the sooner design and permitting work can start.