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Ridge to Rivers pilot program in the Boise Foothills begins

The superintendent of Foothills and Open Space with Boise Parks and Recreation said the program is an experiment to see if the new changes can be permanent fixes.

BOISE, Idaho — The Ridge to River pilot program in the Boise Foothills got underway Wednesday and will run until November 1.  

The pilot program brings four changes to four popular trails.

The temporary changes in place are:

  • Lower Hulls Gulch Trail #29 – On even-numbered days of the month, the trail is closed to all downhill bike travel (open to hikers and equestrians to travel in both directions and open to uphill mountain bikers) for the duration of the pilot. On odd-numbered days of the month, the trail is only open to downhill bike traffic (closed to all other users) for the duration of the pilot.
  • Polecat Loop Trail #81 – All trail users are required to travel in one direction (counter-clockwise) throughout the duration of the pilot. The first half-mile of the trail from the Polecat Trailhead on Collister Drive will remain multi-directional to provide an out-and-back experience at Polecat Reserve.
  • Around the Mountain Trail #98 – All trail users are required to travel in one direction (counter-clockwise) throughout the duration of the pilot program. This trail is jointly managed by Ridge to Rivers and Bogus Basin.
  • Bucktail Trail #20A – A new pedestrian-only trail will be constructed between Central Ridge and Bucktail Trail. The existing Bucktail Trail will be modified and open to downhill mountain bike travel only. Uphill mountain bike access will be via Central Ridge Trail. 

The program was created in response to a community-wide survey conducted in January 2021. Over 4,500 people responded to the survey with suggestions on how to better manage the trails.

The superintendent of Foothills and Open Space with Boise Parks and Recreation, Sara Arkle, said the program is an experiment to see if the new changes can serve as a lifelong solution to safety and conflict concerns.

"We have a trail system that has blind corners and like I said increased use so the separation is something that the community is asking us to explore,” Arkle explained. "As a community, I think that is something to be proud of, we have so much access and the point of these pilot programs is to improve safety on busy trails and to reduce the potential for user conflict.”

KTVB spoke to some trail users on Wednesday to hear what they thought of the program on its first day.

"As the population continues to grow here, trail use is increasing. I feel like this is going to be a way to navigate future changes and increase the use of the trails," said avid biker Matt Wordell.

For locals like Wordell, over the past several years, the growing use of the foothill trails has been hard to ignore.

"What you are getting now is people from different parts of the country bringing their trail culture into Boise and what's happening is you're getting some conflict around like how we are used to interacting on the trails," Wordell said.

In one year, trail usage in the Boise Foothills increased from one million to three  million users. Many are optimistic that this could be a good solution to minimize the impact of newcomers.

"When you are out here hiking you know for a fact you can get on some of these trails and you have free reign, you don't have to worry about people bombing down the trails, so it's great for you," Arkle said. "For mountain bikers, there's a handful of days every week where you can rip down lower holes and you don't have to worry about pedestrians on the trail and it's incredible."

"I understand why it's happening, last time I was here was like last week and there was a few times where I felt a little unsafe because bikers were flying by,” trail runner Cameron Guthrie told KTVB.

Guthrie acknowledges that not all Idahoans will be open and understanding of the new changes.

"It's going to take away half of the people who enjoy it on a daily basis and nobody likes it when you can do something you've done for the past however many years you have lived here,” Guthrie said. "The reality is yes, you are going to get that but if the majority listens, it will be for the best."

For more information on the temporary pilot program and to share your feedback click here.

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