HAGERMAN — Visitors to the Billingsley Creek unit of Thousand Springs State Park will in a few years find new features, unveiled Wednesday by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.
Plans include a visitor center, campground, road improvements, multi-use trails and enhanced fishing and paddling access on the creek.
“It was important to the agency that we remain committed to developing Billingsley Creek in a manner that would satisfy as many recreational needs and interests as possible,” Gordy Hansen, a member of the Idaho Park and Recreation Board from Burley, said in a statement. “We challenged our staff to explore innovative designs and cutting-edge outdoor opportunities, a few of which will soon be part of the Billingsley Creek experience.”
More than 100 people came to hear what the agency had planned for the 170-acre property, 120 acres of which are now leased out to farmers. But that will eventually change, as roads, trails, and improvements expand from the entrance of the park into the canyon toward Billingsley Creek below.
The long-term cost of the proposed project totals about $8 million. Funding for projects within the park initially will come from the sale of the nearby Vardis Fisher property, which was sold in 2015. Additional funding will come from programs such as the Recreational Vehicle Fund (RV registration fees), the Land and Water Conservation Fund (federal oil and gas excise taxes), and the Road and Bridge Fund (state fuel taxes).
As with any long-term project, the design phase will start with roads and utilities once funds are available next year, said Jim Thomas, IDPR development bureau chief. A new entrance to the park will be constructed farther north of the present entrance, and a 1.4-mile two-lane paved road will wind through the park, leading to a full-service, 50-site RV campground with dumping station.
Additional “primitive” camping will also be available for those who want to rough it, said David Landrum, Thousand Springs State Park manager.
Plans also call for an amphitheater, arboretum, information huts, a large picnic shelter, a group camp and a concrete “pump track” for bicycles.
Gooding County Commissioner Marc Bolduc said the park will be a huge economic driver for the Magic Valley.
Residents are especially excited about a walking and biking path — the Hagerman Valley Pathway — that will connect the town with Billingsley Creek, said Suzanne Jensen, a member of the bike and walk committee and secretary of the Hagerman Valley Chamber board.
“This is going to be so great for our community,” Jensen said. The second annual “Dinner on the Owsley Bridge” fundraiser for the pathway is scheduled for Sept. 15.
IDPR plans for the Billingsley Creek unit to be the hub of Thousand Springs State Park, which also includes Malad Gorge, Ritter Island, Kelton Trail, Niagara Springs, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Nature Preserve and Crystal Springs.
“Thousand Springs State Park is a testament to why this rugged portion of southern Idaho is called the Magic Valley,” said David Langhorst, IDPR director. “Our goal is to maximize the potential of these special places and create opportunities that will draw more interest to unique attributes of the area while complementing the community and efforts to accommodate growth.”