It began with a vision, was built on a model of collaboration and culminated in a regional treasure.
Blackfoot and Bingham County residents who enjoy bicycling, rollerblading, jogging and walking will assemble Aug. 17 to celebrate completion of the a new recreational trail – the Greater Blackfoot Area Greenbelt – a loop of approximately 10 miles that connects the city with Rose Pond.
“This trail is perhaps the purest form of collaboration – a project that literally began at the grassroots level with the initiative of the Blackfoot Area Greenbelt Committee,” said Ed Bala, Idaho Transportation Department’s District 5 engineer. “We are pleased to have played a role in the partnership.”
ITD helped secure enhancement funds from the Federal Highway Administration that enabled completion of the second and third phases of an eight-year project. The latest investment of about $400,000 completed the 10-foot wide trail from the Snake River Bridge at Blackfoot to Rose Pond.
The city of Blackfoot, Bingham County and the Greenbelt committee will roll out the black carpet at 11 a.m. near the Snake River Bridge, about a mile north of Jensen’s Grove.
Bicycle riders, joggers, walkers, in-line skaters and other trail users are encouraged to participate in the ceremony. Those interested are asked to assemble at Jensen’s Grove around 10:45 a.m. and travel as a group to the dedication site near Porterville Road and the I-15 Snake River Bridge.
Transportation board members will join the ribbon-cutting ceremony as part of their tour of District 5 and their monthly meeting the following day in Pocatello. A number of local dignitaries and supporters of the project will participate in the ceremony. Immediately afterward, the group will return via the greenbelt to Jensen’s Grove.
Impetus for the recreational trail came from Sandi Thomas and the Greater Blackfoot Area Greenbelt Committee more than eight years ago. Actually, Thomas admits, discussion about a trail dates to about 1987.
“There was desire from this (greenbelt) committee to have a pathway that ran along the Snake River at the wildlife viewing area adjacent to West Bridge Street. Issues arose due to the sensitive nature of the area and the presence of wetlands, and thus the pathway was not constructed.”
A path connecting Jensen’s Grove and Rose Pond became a primary focus of the greenbelt committee in 1993.
“…the community really saw the need for alternative modes of transportation. It was at that point that plans to reconstruct the interstate bridges were on the radar screen. After evaluating all potential routes of crossing the Snake River to connect Jensen’s and Rose, it was determined a pedestrian pathway adjacent to the new interstate bridges was the only feasible solution,” she said.
Completing the vision required cooperation among the greenbelt committee and private supporters, the city of Blackfoot, Bingham County, ITD, the Federal Highway Administration, the Danskin Canal Co., the Blackfoot Municipal Golf Course, Cannon Builders, Cannon Structures, Harper-Leavitt Engineering and a local homeowners association.
All of the organizations played an integral part in bringing Jensen’s Grove, Rose Pond and recreational users together.
The proposal generated instant support from throughout the community. Plans began bearing fruit in 1997 when the first of what would become four phases was initiated.
The second phase was to build a bicycle and pedestrian trail along the new Interstate 15 bridge over the Snake River. Although questions surfaced over whether a trail was permitted on an interstate, precedents were found in the Henry Jackson Twin Bridges across the Columbia and a U.S. 95 bridge near Sandpoint. A recreational path also had been constructed in the Interstate 90 right-of-way between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
The Federal Highway Administration authorized ITD to use interstate maintenance funds to include the bike/pedestrian path on the new Snake River Bridge.
The third phase of the project was construction of a paved path from Jensen’s Grove to the bridge, followed by the final phase that extended the trail to Rose Pond.
Completion of the project required the donation of land by the city, county and homeowners’ association, the donation of bridge materials by Cannon Builders and Cannon Structures, donated engineering services by Harper-Leavitt and approval from the Danskin Canal Co. for a canal crossing.