Dear Mr. President and Parks and Recreation Commissioners,
I am writing on behalf of the Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN.) BREN is a local network of over 200 members whose primary goal is connecting people and projects in support of ecological enhancement of the Boise River. Our members represent diverse interests, including agriculture, economic development, municipal governments, irrigation water organizations, recreationists, environmental consultants, professional and citizen scientists, and the public at large. BREN thanks the City and the Commission for the opportunity to comment on the draft Downtown Parks and Public Spaces Plan (DPPS).
Our Coordinating Team has reviewed the draft Plan and offers the following comments:
We support the City of Boise’s proactive efforts to improve and develop downtown parks and public spaces. Making downtown more inviting and using parks and pathways as a cornerstone of livability is an important strategy. The DPPS plan should acknowledge the important values of the Boise River corridor. The Boise River, the Greenbelt corridor and pathways are collective assets that make Boise unique.
Our comments to the Plan are focused in two areas:
- Create formalized access points to the Boise River, particularly on the north bank (DPPS pages 9 and 10).
- The language of this recommendation is not clear as to whether it references formalized connections to the Greenbelt corridor or creating openings in the riparian area to the Boise River and/or its tributaries. The City of Boise’s Boise River Resource Management & Master Plan (2014) states that its primary objective is to manage recreational opportunities so that there are minimal impacts on natural resources (p. 18). The 2014 Plan notes that unrestricted access to the river creates impacts such as trampled vegetation, accelerated riverbank erosion, compacted soil, and damaged habitat (p. 21). Additional impacts of creating access points include habitat fragmentation and increased noise, disturbance and dislocation of wildlife by humans and dogs. The 2014 Plan calls for an inventory of current access points and the removal and rehabilitation of some trails (p. 27 and 56). This guidance was reinforced by the findings of the Boise River Riparian Corridor Stewardship Plan created by the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for the City of Boise in 2015. After an exhaustive inventory of vegetative cover types and vegetative condition, the Corps presented a number of recommendations to Boise City Parks and Recreation. To improve the ecological function of the vegetation on City of Boise lands along the Boise River, the Corps’ first recommendation is that “access to major riparian habitat should be limited, and the number of volunteer trails should be reduced.” The Corps also recommends that “unnecessary trails should be closed with signage, barriers, vegetation plantings and fencing.” Therefore, we recommend careful consideration of access points along the Boise River and/or its tributaries.
- Allow traditional kiosks along the Boise Greenbelt or other parks for small-scale commercial activity (DPPS page 10).
- The City of Boise’s Boise River Resource Management & Master Plan (2014) calls for the need to develop proactive policies to deal with the location and permission to allow concession kiosks near (but not on) the Greenbelt (p. 58); such policies have not yet been implemented. Without proper oversight, kiosks placed along the Greenbelt could lead to safety and congestion, litter, noise, and consequential negative impacts to Boise River habitat and wildlife.
The Corps Plan (2015) found that mature cottonwood habitat has decreased by 20% since 2001 and that its condition is deteriorating (p.25). While not as functional as it could be, the Boise River corridor currently provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species and provides numerous ecosystem services such as water supply and purification, flood attenuation, recreation and aesthetics to all who live here.
BREN members want to improve functionality of the Boise River corridor and continue to enjoy these benefits. We encourage the Commission to recommend changes to the DPPS report so it aligns with existing management plans.
Thank you again for accepting our comments.
Chairperson, Boise River Enhancement Network
City of Boise. 2014. Boise River Resources Management & Master Plan. City of Boise Parks and Recreation, ID
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. 2015. Boise River Riparian Corridor Stewardship Plan: Barber Park to Glenwood Bridge/West Boise Wastewater Treatment Facility. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Walla Walla District, WA