Boise & Garden City

Esther Simplot Park opening delayed; more Boise parks on the way

Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway describes some of the key features of Esther Simplot Park, a 55-acre park featuring several large ponds next to Boise River Park, a whitewater recreation area.
Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway describes some of the key features of Esther Simplot Park, a 55-acre park featuring several large ponds next to Boise River Park, a whitewater recreation area.

Boise Parks and Recreation hoped Esther Simplot Park would be open by now.

Instead, crews found tons — literally — of industrial debris as they excavated the park site, located north of Pleasanton Avenue between the Boise River and Whitewater Park Boulevard. Cleanup took months and cost $6.5 million.

Partly because of the unforeseen cleanup, the city and the J.R. Simplot Foundation, which is paying for construction of the park, have delayed the opening. Most of the physical work is done, and planting of vegetation can start soon. But city leaders and foundation members — the children of J.R. and Esther Simplot — are worried that opening the park before the vegetation matures would risk damage from which the plants might never recover, Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said.

This summer is the earliest Esther Simplot Park will open, and fall is more likely, Holloway said. The foundation and the city will make the decision together, he said.

Any chance it could be delayed until 2017?

“I don’t foresee that occurring,” Holloway said.

Whenever it’s done, the park will be one of the most spectacular in Idaho. It will have 23 acres of ponds, wetlands and other waterways, covering more than 40 percent of the park’s 55 acres. Amenities will include trails, docks, bridges, a playground and water access to neighboring Quinn’s Pond.

Our concern right now is that we think it’s going to be so busy that, from a capacity standpoint, we don’t know what we’re in for. ... It’s a good problem to have. I want that problem and we’ll deal with it.

Parks Director Doug Holloway on Esther Simplot Park

The Simplot family paid for the installation of 8 million pounds of large rocks, more than originally planned, because they look nice, Holloway said. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will stock the park’s ponds with fish. Joe Kozfkay, a Fish and Game regional fisheries manager, said the largemouth bass and bluegill will migrate from Quinn’s Pond into the new park.

“However, we will likely supplement to hasten establishment,” Kozfkay said in an email. “ As for trout, we will likely stock for all months except for July-September.”

Esther Simplot Park will be worth the wait, said Jo Cassin, co-owner of Idaho River Sports. Located at the corner of Pleasanton and Whitewater Park Boulevard, Idaho River Sports is weathering the storm of disruption that started with the construction of Whitewater Park Boulevard and continues with work on the park and Boise River Greenbelt, all of which has complicated access to the store and recreation spots near it.

“It just seems like every year it’s something,” Cassin said. “Financially, it’s been really stressful. It’s been a big strain.”

Cassin is still optimistic, though. She would have loved for the park to be open right now and attracting big crowds, but she doesn’t blame the Simplots or the city for the delay.

To say it hasn’t been economically or financially tough on us would be stretching it, but we haven’t ever been upset or frustrated. We know what the big picture is.

Idaho River Sports co-owner Jo Cassin on the delayed opening of Esther Simplot Park

“We are so grateful to the Simplot family for building this beautiful park,” she said. “I really love their landscaping plan. So it’s well, well worth the wait.”

Ryan King, volunteer coordinator for bicycling advocate group Boise Bicycle Project, has a similar take on the closure of the stretch of Greenbelt that runs through Esther Simplot Park.

“It’s definitely an inconvenience, having to take those detours. But I think at this point, everybody’s kind of gotten used to it because it’s been closed for so long,” King said. “But, yeah, it is yet another gap in the infrastructure for transportation other than cars, which we’d love to see patched together.”

‘Transformational’ activity for Boise parks

In 15 years with Boise Parks and Recreation, Doug Holloway said he hasn’t seen a period of time as active as right now.

All over the city, projects to open parks and recreation amenities like trails and open space are in progress or soon will be. Holloway, who’s been director since October 2012, said 10 new parks are in the works. The city has bought hundreds of acres in the Foothills and is generating $10 million more for open space and water quality projects through a two-year levy voters passed in November.

“It’s really an unprecedented time from a Parks and Rec perspective,” Holloway said. “Many of these projects are going to have such a transformational effect on the community.”

Here’s a look at some of the biggest park projects underway in Boise right now.

Rhodes Skatepark

Location: 1555 W. Front St.

Acres: 1.28

Amenities: Concrete skate features, landscaping on 15th and 16th streets

Cost: $1.3 million

Completion date: Spring 2016

It’s going to be one of the premier skate parks in the country.

Doug Holloway on Rhodes Skatepark

Esther Simplot Park

Location: 625 N. Whitewater Park Blvd.

Acres: 55

Amenities: 23 acres of waterways, playground, bridges, docks, trails, restrooms, access points for Quinn’s Pond, Veteran’s Pond, Boise River Park and Boise River Greenbelt

Cost: Construction cost unclear, paid for by J.R. Simplot Foundation

Completion date: Summer-fall 2016

Magnolia Park

Location: 8505 W. Sloan St.

Acres: 7

Amenities: (Fully developed) restroom, playground, spray ground, disc golf course and off-leash dog area

Cost (green-up): $700,000

Completion date: Late summer 2016

Boise Hills Park

Location: 651 Clubview Ct.

Acres: 7.3

Amenities: (Fully developed) restroom, amphitheater, basketball court, tennis courts, spray ground and a 0.6-mile trail around the park

Cost (green-up): $745,000

Completion date: Late summer 2016

Sterling Park

Location: 9851 W. Irving St.

Acres: 8

Amenities: (Fully developed) restroom, basketball court, tennis courts, spray ground, off-leash dog area and mini-skate park area

Cost (green-up): $1.12 million

Completion date: Fall 2017

Molenaar Diamond Park

Location: 2815 S. Maple Grove Road

Acres: 20

Amenities: (Fully developed) playground, restroom, basketball and volleyball courts, pickleball court, spray ground, mini-skate park, fishing dock, dog off-leash area and three fields for soccer and other sports

Cost (green-up): $1.9 million

Completion date: Late summer 2016

Franklin Park

Location: 310 S. Hilton Road

Acres: 3

Amenities: Unknown. Master plan still in development

Cost (green-up): $700,000

Completion date: Unknown

Boise River Park, Phase 2

Location: 3900 W. Pleasanton Ave.

Amenities: Lochs, boulders and other obstacles that produce waves; lawn seating; viewing areas; take-out areas.

Cost: $8.8 million

Completion date: 2019

Spaulding Ranch

Location: North Cole Road, near Mountain View Drive

Acres: 20

Amenities: Farmhouse, barn, outbuildings

Cost: Unknown

Completion date: Unknown, master plan process scheduled to begin within 90 days

Boise River Greenbelt, Garden City-to-Americana Boulevard

Location: South side of Boise River

Amenities: One-mile concrete pathway with tunnels under Main Street and Fairview Avenue

Cost: $3.5 million

Completion date: September 2016

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