JEROME — Proposed development of some 200 acres in Devils Corral has spurred a local group into action.
Board members of Friends of Devil’s Corral hope to gather enough financial support to purchase the property from developer George Panagiotou and keep the scenic and historic canyon land north of the Snake River undeveloped. The group will pitch the idea to the public in two upcoming presentations.
“Devil’s Corral is a geologic gem,” said “Friends” President Karl Ruprecht. “It has cliffs, alcoves, aquifer-fed streams, and a wealth of cultural resources.”
The land lies in Jerome County along the Snake River between Shoshone Falls and the Twin Falls power plant, surrounded by the Snake River Canyon Park — Bureau of Land Management ground leased by the county. Landlocked inside Panagiotou’s Devil’s Corral development are another 26 acres of BLM ground.
Panagiotou has owned the land since 2000. His development will allow the public to enjoy the area legally for the first time, he said.
The west end of the development will be for housing, while the east end will be for public recreation, including biking, hiking, swimming and horseback riding. He also plans to build a lodge and convention center, unless the group can come up with the money to buy it from him, he said.
Ruprecht told the Times-News he has met with Panagiotou, and his group is not litigating or fighting against the development.
“We simply want to offer him an alternative that would allow continued use by the public,” he said. “And that alternative is buying the private land for a park or open space similar to Dierke’s Lake or Auger Falls.”
Local historians Shauna Robinson and Ron James will speak Thursday — and again in November — about how the canyon land played a role in the development of the Magic Valley in the late 19th century.
“From horse thieves to the North Side Alternate Route of the Oregon Trail, Devil’s Corral has a long history,” Robinson said.
The canyon’s name appears on an 1879 U.S. Corps of Engineers map, several years before Twin Falls founder I.B. Perrine arrived in Idaho Territory.
It’s not the first time an owner has tried to develop Devil’s Corral. Bliss ranchers Robert and Bernardine “Bernee” Erkins offered to sell Devil’s Corral in October 1993 to the city of Twin Falls. The Erkinses also proposed an immense state park called “Dry Cataracts Natural Park” but then-Gov. Cecil Andrus nixed the idea for lack of funds.
Panagiotou also says he wants to preserve the natural character of the property while offering access to the canyon.
“This is like a mythical place,” he said several weeks ago, as workers prepared to blast a section of rimrock to allow access into a lower level of the canyon.
“George Panagiotou is a businessman,” Ruprecht said. “He will consider a serious offer for the appraised value of his land at Devil’s Corral. If the Magic Valley decides not to make him an offer he will continue with his plans for a subdivision.
“This is an amazing opportunity to save a very special place. But nothing will happen if the people of the Magic Valley don’t demand it.”