FORGING PARTNERSHIPS TO CREATE SPACE FOR COMMUNITY, WILDLIFE, AND OUR SENSE OF PLACE
Stories from the Howard Preserve to the Hailey Greenway
The Wood River Land Trust is committed to the protection of the open spaces and waters in the Wood River Valley–both for habitat preservation, and to allow for community spaces where we can all enjoy the beauty of our valley. We believe it is imperative to perpetuate the longstanding importance placed by the communities in the Valley of spending time in the outdoors. With our partners, we have been able to increase the amount of land to existing public spaces, and by doing so, have created even more welcoming and sustainable places for our community to recreate.
One such community space is the Howard Preserve. With the help of the City of Bellevue and the Friends of the Howard Preserve, we were able to expand the formerly 7.5 acre preserve to 35 acres. The Howard Preserve, which provides access to the Big Wood River, has proved to be a beloved space with year-round access for families, friends, and pets to bask in the glory of the river and surrounding nature.
Florence Blanchard, member of the Friends of the Howard Preserve, shared some insight on the daily work of the organization and the work they do to maintain the beauty of the preserve. As she explains, in October 2009, “the Bellevue city council adopted the Howard Preserve Management Plan, creating a partnership with the WRLT and the Friends of the Howard Preserve to ‘maintain the values of the preserve in perpetuity.’”
Since that day, the Friends of the Howard Preserve has worked closely with The Wood River Land Trust and the City of Bellevue to both maintain the preserve, and to initiate projects and improvements. Florence emphasizes the importance of the role of the Wood River Land Trust in the Howard Preserve: “The City, the WRLT, and Friends are equal partners. We don’t initiate any projects without approval by the others,” she explains.
The Wood River Land Trust has forged similar partnerships to further both habitat preservation and community spaces throughout the valley. We’ve worked closely with the City of Hailey to bring to life the Hailey Greenway, a 350 acre stretch of land along the Bigwood River located between the Bullion Street bridge and Colorado Gulch bridge. Visitors are immediately transported from the daily activity of nearby downtown Hailey, to a serene yet vibrant landscape where wildlife is abundant and thriving.
Equally important to Hailey Greenway’s cultivation of a community space for people to spend time in nature is to provide habitat for wildlife, under increasing threat by land use development.
Developments along the valley corridors create fragmentation of habitats, leaving wildlife with no choice but to wander into our neighborhoods, creating a less than ideal living environment for both humans and animals. Just as we don’t yearn for mountain lions or moose to threaten the safety of our neighborhoods, these animals face even greater challenges when they are forced to do so due to their lack of remaining habitat. In order to combat this growing issue, designations are imperative of large parcels of contiguous land such as our Hailey Greenway.
The Wood River Land Trust is so grateful for our partnerships, and for the relationships we have formed with the cities in this valley. Without them, our work would be nonviable. It is because of them and also the generous support of our communities that we are able to continue protecting the land we value so deeply.