Outdoors Blog

Payette Brewing fundraiser to help rebuild Idaho City-area yurt system is tonight

The view from Stargaze Yurt is difficult to beat.
The view from Stargaze Yurt is difficult to beat. ccripe@idahostatesman.com

Idaho State Parks and Recreation plans to close for the summer season its two Idaho City-area yurts that are operating this winter as the department tries to get most of the system back online for winter 2017-18.

State Parks and Rec operates six yurts on Boise National Forest land 18-25 miles north of Idaho City. The yurts, and the trail system around them, were damaged by the Pioneer Fire last summer. Only two were opened for this winter — Banner Ridge and Stargaze. The department hopes to open three more for next winter but likely will need more time to rebuild Whispering Pines, which was destroyed.

A fundraiser will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Jan. 30 at Payette Brewing Co. (733 S. Pioneer St., Boise). Half of all beer proceeds will be donated to the Idaho City Yurt & Trail Restoration Project. The event will offer many auction items, including first reservation dibs for next winter, first-generation trail signs that were used in the area and outdoors gear. The Whoop-Um-Up Trailblazers will play music. Food vendors will be on-site.

“This is the first time this agency has ever explored anything like this,” said Jennifer Okerlund, the communications manager for the department. “We’re excited about it and hope that it is successful. We think it’s going to be fun.”

Leo Hennessy, the non-motorized trails coordinator for State Parks and Rec, estimates the damage to yurts and trails at about $200,000 — about half for the yurts and half for the 55-mile trail system. The department has lost an additional $103,000 in revenue from the yurt closures and a decline in Park N’ Ski pass sales, he said. The trails aren’t groomed this winter and many aren’t open (plus, Idaho 21 was closed last weekend and again this week).

Insurance will cover some of the costs but not all, Okerlund said.

“Our fear is that although there was insurance to cover the yurt that was lost entirely to fire, we’re not sure it’s going to cover all of the costs associated with re-creating the experience that once existed,” Okerlund said. “There’s also a bunch of work to do as far as removing hazards in the area and re-establishing access to the yurts. The more funds we can bring to the table, the more assistance we can bring, probably the faster the Forest Service is going to release those closures so we can create access to all five standing yurts again and begin replacement of the sixth.”

The department is optimistic it can have five yurts ready for next winter. Banner Ridge and Stargaze will be closed this summer in part to provide base camps for the people working on the yurts.

When Idaho 21 is open, you can still use some of the trail system. Here’s a story I did on snowshoeing to Stargaze Point.

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