Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kuna has a great opportunity with Hubbard Reservoir

Did you happen to see the special on PBS the other night about the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted? He was a landscape architect and urban park planner in the mid- to late-1800s. He’s most famous for his work on New York City’s Central Park.
Once he became famous, he was commissioned to do hundreds of urban parks all across the United States, including parks in Portland, Ore., and in Seattle.
He also designed Seneca Park in Rochester, N.Y., where my family and I lived for five years before moving to Kuna. The paper I worked for, the Democrat & Chronicle, did a big story on Olmsted and how he designed Seneca Park.
As I was watching the PBS special, Hubbard Reservoir kept coming to mind.
You may have seen from time to time articles in the Kuna Melba News about Hubbard Reservoir and the group Friends of the Hubbard Reservoir.
The goal of Friends of Hubbard Reservoir is to elevate the public’s awareness of the vast potential held by Hubbard Reservoir.
The vision is to create what would be Ada County’s largest county park, a 377-acre recreation area just east of Kuna.
David R. Hubbard, the brother-in-law of fellow Kuna settler F.H. Teed, served on the board of directors of the Boise Valley Irrigation Association in the early 1900s, according to “Patterns of the Past: The Ada County Historic Site Inventory,” a book published by Ada County. Around the time of the approval of the Boise Project to bring irrigation water to the Boise Valley, Hubbard signed a contract to build several reservoirs in southern Ada County, according to the book. The contracting organization was the Idaho Lateral and Canal Company, organized mainly by subscription pledges of prospective water users. In addition to Hubbard Lake, Hubbard’s company was to build Painter Lake, Kuna Lake, Watkins Lake, Catherine Lake and Rawson Lake. The book states that all of the lakes would be connected by laterals. The book also states that all of the lakes, except for Rawson Lake, were actually built.
But then the project was dropped for fear of interfering with the larger Boise Project plans to irrigate the entire valley. All of the lakes later disappeared except for Hubbard Reservoir.
According to Ada County Parks & Waterways, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation purchased the facility in 1911 as part of the Boise Project. It is an earthfill structure 23 feet high creating a reservoir area of 450 acres with an active capacity of about 4,000 acre-feet. Water is delivered to the reservoir by the New York Canal. The dam and reservoir are operated and maintained by the Boise Project Board of Control as a reregulating facility for irrigation water deliveries in the adjacent area. It also provides emergency short-term storage for dewatering the New York Canal should a failure in the canal occur downstream.
Friends of Hubbard Reservoir has been working for the past couple of years, with
plans for the future that include a large parking lot, restrooms, an interpretive center, dedicated wildlife areas, paved walking and biking paths and regular environmental and wildlife education programs on the site.
Friends of Hubbard Reservoir encourages local government, business, schools and citizens to donate funds and time to improve the accessibility to and use of the site. There is enormous potential here for a beautiful nature preserve, strategically located in the middle of what will eventually be large housing developments, according to Parks & Waterways.
So back to Olmsted. I agree that this whole area one day will be covered with housing developments, for good or for bad.
I think Ada County and the city of Kuna, along with the city of Meridian, have an incredible opportunity in this moment to create what could become an Olmsted-like shining amenity for the entire region.
I suspect we’ll find out what the next plans are at the Hubbard Reservoir Open House, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the Kuna High School Commons.
I would hate to see us just do what we always do — throw some gravel on the ground and call it a parking lot, put up a shed and call it an interpretive center, haul in a Port-A-Potty and call it restrooms.
I’d like to see plans for public spaces, lawns, trees, paved trails, rows of benches, a place where residents can go to relax and feel like they’ve gotten away from it all.
What’s it going to take? I know no one is going to want to hear this, but tax dollars. Donations and phantom developer dollars are not going to get something like this done. It’s going to require public dollars from Ada County, the city of Kuna and the city of Meridian. The question will be whether we as taxpaying citizens value something like this enough to pay for it.

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