BOISE -- Boise Parks and Recreation is creating and improving wetlands across the city, and they say the benefits go beyond wildlife habitat.

Wetlands play a lot of significant roles in the environment, said Amy Stahl with Boise Parks and Rec.

The Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve off Maple Grove Road near Chinden Boulevard, a former gravel pit is getting a facelift. That's thanks to a $1 million grant from the EPA.

It will be a significant improvement to west Boise, said Stahl. It's a site that has been heavily disturbed over time and this project will restore it. The new site will also include two brand new islands for wildlife habitat...pathways, pedestrian bridges, some interpretive signage.

Besides educational opportunities, it will serve a benefit to the people of Boise by improving water quality.

Wetlands serve as a natural filtration system, said Stahl. This will be enhanced with a sand filter that will enable the wetlands to help clean storm water in the area.

A new wetlands next to Willow Lane Park was scrublands a few months ago, but is already filling up with groundwater. The plants, many willows appropriately enough, will soon follow.

It's not attached to the Boise River, but is close. So, like other wetlands, it can help battle flooding by providing a reservoir for waters spilling over the banks.

They're actually developed with that in mind, should there be a high-water event the parks can take some of the pressure from the river flooding, said Stahl.

The future Marianne Williams Park by Harris Ranch will also feature wetlands and provide even more resources to the residents of Boise, wild or otherwise.

There's still some planting to be done at the Willow Lane wetlands, but it is open. However, the soil is saturated, so don't get too close to the water or you might sink in the mud.

Work on the Hyatt Wetlands is expected to finish in June and be open to the public in July. Marianne Williams Park is expected to open this summer, as well.

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