Outdoors Blog

Boise Foothills get new reserve, trail; projects planned for Table Rock system

Why bitterbrush, sagebrush are plants of choice for Table Rock rehab

Volunteers are helping Boise Parks and Recreation plant bitterbrush and sagebrush in the area burned by the Table Rock fire.
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Volunteers are helping Boise Parks and Recreation plant bitterbrush and sagebrush in the area burned by the Table Rock fire.

The latest reserve added to the city of Boise’s open space in the Foothills is a small parcel purchased largely through neighborhood donations.

Peace Valley Overlook Reserve in the Barber Valley on the city’s eastern edge features a steep, 0.8-mile loop trail that eventually will include interpretive signage. It’s designed to be a neighborhood trail — there’s no public parking available — but it’s easily accessible from the Greenbelt and the trail system that runs through the Barber Valley neighborhoods.

The reserve is bordered by the Boise River Wildlife Management Area and River Heights development. It features sweeping views of the Boise River, Barber Valley, Downtown Boise and the Owyhee Mountains.

The name and plan for the new reserve is pending Boise City Council approval.

The trail, which partially uses an old road cut onto the property by previous owners, was built with volunteer help last month.

“The community really wanted it to become an interpretive destination where people can learn about the cultural history of the Barber Valley and the natural resources that are so valuable in the area, like the critical habitat for wildlife,” said Sara Arkle, the Foothills and open space manager for Boise Parks and Recreation.

The 24-acre parcel was preserved through a neighborhood effort to prevent development when it went up for sale. The purchase price was $395,000, Barber Valley Neighborhood Association President John Mooney Jr. said. The city contributed about $100,000, Arkle said. Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Land Trust of the Treasure Valley and the Idaho Fish & Wildlife Foundation also were key players.

The first neighborhood meeting raised $94,000, Mooney said, who was a co-chairman of the fund-raising effort. Brandy Wilson and Michael Popa, his fellow co-chairmen, provided the earnest money to make the deal possible, Mooney said.

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Here’s what the Peace Valley Overlook Reserve trail looks like, as tracked by the Gaia GPS app. Gaia GPS

The sellers – Missy Olson and Joe Ramaker – and their real-estate agent also contributed to the fundraising effort, Mooney said. The owners had envisioned opening a healing center on the property more than a decade ago, he said. They gave the neighborhood several months to raise the funds in a deal that took six months to close in September 2017.

“We couldn’t have done it without the sellers,” Mooney said. “They were really patient with us. … Not many sellers are going to be that flexible.”

The property was turned over to the city as part of the deal. Idaho Fish and Game expressed concerns about the trail but the city agreed to close the reserve when the WMA is closed, Arkle said, like it was during the snowy winter of 2016-17.

The trail begins at East Grand Prairie Drive at the back of River Heights, which was built in several phases on the north side of Warm Springs near the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. It climbs about 215 feet in the first half-mile, then features a small, pleasant loop with terrific views before you drop back down the way you came.

The trail is open to the public. Dogs must be on leash because of the proximity to the WMA, and bikes aren’t allowed.

“We still have a lot to do to make it a destination,” Arkle said.

Here's what you need to know if you hike, bike or run on the Ridge to Rivers trail system in the Boise Foothills.

More parking for Tram trail

The city is in the planning stages for a project to expand parking at Warm Springs Golf Course to serve trail users at the adjacent Tram trailhead. The Tram trail is an alternative (and arguably prettier) route to Table Rock.

But it doesn’t have any parking.

“The challenge that we have is the busy time for golf courses is also aligned with the busy time for trails,” Arkle said. “What we have is people parking on the roadside or parking in the golf course parking lot, which the golf course doesn’t allow, which again kicks people out on the road, which causes an even more dangerous situation for bikers or pedestrians looking to cross at that location.”

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Impressive rock formations distinguish the Tram trail from the traditional route to Table Rock. Chadd Cripe ccripe@idahostatesman.com

The Tram trailhead is directly across Warm Springs Avenue from the golf course parking lot, and the crossing is near a curve in the road that limits visibility.

The city’s plan would expand the golf course parking lot to the south on empty, city-owned land. The city would add 20-30 parking spots, depending on construction costs, and designate them for trail users. The entrance to the parking lot and street crossing also would move to the south for safety, and the Tram trail would be tweaked so it connects to the sidewalk that will run across the front of a new housing development on the east side of the street.

The budget for the project is $125,000, Arkle said, and it could be completed by next summer. The Parks and Recreation Commission will consider the plan Nov. 15.

The Tram trail has become more popular as the Barber Valley grows, Arkle said. The trailhead also is close to the Greenbelt, which runs along the golf course parking lot.

“It’s one of many trailhead projects we need to accomplish,” Arkle said. “We’re trying to balance the money with priority locations. Warm Springs was identified as a priority location because there is no parking for trail users there.”

Botanist Ann DeBolt walks in late August the trails burned in the human-caused fire near Table Rock on June 30. She is among those hopeful that native plants will be able to re-establish themselves in the area. She has seen hopeful signs.

Table Rock planting event

The city and Idaho Fish and Game are partnering on another large, volunteer planting event Saturday at Table Rock as part of the area’s wildfire recovery. Last year, 500 volunteers planted more than 7,000 plants, according to Idaho Fish and Game. “We hope to repeat the efforts of last year in what could be our final push to plant seedlings for wildlife in the immediate area,” Michael Young, regional habitat biologist with Idaho Fish and Game, said in a press release. The sagebrush planting begins at 10 a.m. A lunch and party for participants begins at 1 p.m. Volunteers can sign up online or email Michael Young at michael.young@idfg.idaho.gov. 

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