JEROME — It’s still in the preliminary stages, but George Panagiotou’s hope for Devil’s Corral is to bring more outdoor tourism to the Magic Valley with low impact on the environment.
Panagiotou and board members of Devil’s Corral LLC pitched their idea Thursday for an ecotourism destination valued at $10 million or more in a box canyon in Jerome County, just a few miles from the I.B. Perrine Bridge. The invite-only event brought together officials including Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, local tourism and economic development leaders and employees of Jerome County.
The owner of Devil’s Corral wants to develop the land for activities such as “cliff hiking,” a 3,000-foot water slide, BASE jumping, zip lining and rock climbing.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered, as well as zoning and water rights to be obtained, but Panagiotou is moving full-steam ahead to get everything in place — including the support.
“This plan is finally graduated from a dream to a goal,” he said. “This is a multi-million dollar project. It will require many experts and a lot of people.”
Panagiotou is a Greek immigrant, entrepreneur and inventor who has waited 16 years to come up with a development strategy on the 200-acre property.
In the past, he has faced opposition because of the historical significance of the area, including its Native American petroglyphs. Protecting these places — while incorporating outdoor recreation, an equestrian center, housing, and a lodge or hotel — will require expert assistance.
“It’s going to take a lot of effort,” said Bill Baker, vice president and director of environmental activities. “It’s not going to be easy.”
There are uses in the area now, such as hiking and horseback riding, that are uncontrolled, he said.
Other proposed amenities included using via ferrata (iron road) cable systems to “hike” along the sides of cliffs, and a glass platform for BASE jumpers and paragliders.
To be environmentally-friendly, the company will explore how best to provide power and water to a development. One idea is to include hydroelectric power, Baker said. Panagiotou said homes would be small and solar-powered.
The water slides would use a “small portion” of natural spring water and contour around natural topography, pooling in natural places, Director of Outdoor Activities Don Campbell said.
The company also highlighted Devil’s Corral’s potential to boost the economy with jobs and tourist dollars.
“We want to make history and experience the tremendous growth of the Magic Valley now, in our lifetime,” Panagiotou said.
Nonprofit organizations could also use the amenities. The Boy Scouts of America has hosted events at Devil’s Corral for a number of years.
“The only issue we have experienced so far is poor access,” local unit executive leader Chris Reid said.
Panagiotou acquired a right-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management to cross federal land leased to Jerome County for a park, which surrounds Devil’s Corral. He plans to improve and extend existing county roads.
Southern Idaho Economic Development Director Jeff Hough said the project could help develop the quality of life in the Magic Valley.
“I would welcome the opportunity to promote Devil’s Corral and southern Idaho, and recruit the talent we need here,” Hough said.
Panagiotou invited attendees to fill out comment cards and come to an investor meeting in February.
Devil’s Corral is zoned agricultural, and would need rezoning and special permits from Jerome County before the owner could proceed with any plans for development.