JEROME — After years of speculation, commissioners have vowed to finish the county's 4,000-acre North Rim Park.
The park takes up a 6.25-square-mile block of land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management north of the Snake River — roughly from the canyon rim to Interstate 84 and from U.S. 93 to near Devils Corral.
The park has been a possibility since Jerome County signed lease agreements with the BLM in 2003 and 2007. It will cost taxpayers nothing but the price of a parking lot, Commissioner Roger Morley said Thursday.
"Jerome wants to make the North Rim Park an outdoor destination for all ATV, motorcycle, mountain bike, equestrian and shooting sports," he said. "And it will always be free."
The county has another 17 years, as per the lease agreement, to gain legal access to the property and complete the park, Morley said. If the county isn't successful, the BLM plans to sell the land.
Once the park is established, the county can apply for federal and state recreational grants, he said.
The county worked on various plans for the park for years, but each time ran into obstacles. Until recently, the property was landlocked; Jerome County had no legal access into the park. In addition, recreational shooting and hunting allowed on neighboring Department of Lands endowment land make the park unsafe.
Commissioner Charlie Howell has personally experienced near misses as bullets have flown by him on the IDL property.
"It's dangerous to all people around," Howell said.
But the situation now appears more favorable to completing the park.
The county has worked out a deal with the Jerome Highway District to "piggyback" on its easement through neighboring IDL property. The county has also hired consultant Ryan Lay to work with the IDL to gain additional access.
But the recreational shooting hurdle may be a tough one to clear.
The commissioners want encourage shooters to use a safer location at the east end of the park instead of on IDL property. Howell will meet later this month with the state Land Board to discuss prohibiting shooting on the IDL land.
"IDL allows hunting and shooting on endowment lands because the law allows it," said Sharla Arledge, spokeswoman for the department.
"This might be a tough one," Morley said. "We'll have to see."
To further enhance the park, Idaho Power Co. has agreed to build a scenic overlook in its easement on IDL property above Shoshone Falls, Morley said.
"We have just as good of a view of the canyon as Twin Falls does," Morley said.