Giving Challenge Announced for River Recreation Park

The latest gift to the Ray Neef, MD, River Recreation Park represents a tremendous opportunity to finish phase I of the park: the rebuilt Thurman Mill Diversion, but there’s a catch, the last $400,000 needed must be raised by Feburary 1st.

Continue Reading Add comment November 17, 2010

Kayaking Champion Eric Jackson on the benefits of a whitewater park in Boise

The first in a series of videos about the potential benefit of a whitewater park in Boise by videographer Skip Armstrong. This features kayaking champion Eric Jackson.

Add comment September 16, 2010

Summer work moves River Park forward

Last spring, the Friends of the Parks board launched the first stage of construction of the new Thurman Mill diversion by adding fill to the southwest corner of Quinn’s pond, which will reinforce the Boise River bank. As additional funds become available, more construction will occur in phases. It is most cost effective to complete the biggest components of the in-water construction in one season (October through March). Hence we cannot phase certain portions of the project. Once we are in the water, work must be completed in a timely manner without making it necessary to get in again.

We had hoped to start the in-river construction this fall. However we are still in the process of raising money and have missed our window to order various components needed to begin. We will continue with some construction as fundraising allows but will have to wait until the next in-river construction season in order to begin installing the largest parts, assuming we have raised all the money needed by June of 2011.

Continue Reading Add comment September 8, 2010

Construction begins on 36th Street pedestrian bridge

Footbridge will provide additional visibility for activities at the site, as well as safe access to the park

Continue Reading Add comment August 21, 2010

Boise Water Park – Where we have been, where we are going…



For the past three years, a volunteer board and other volunteers have been working with the City of Boise to transform a 1900 linear-foot stretch of the Boise River into a world class river recreation park.  The site is being developed as part of a complex of parks along the Boise River Greenbelt, adjacent to the future Esther Simplot Park, between the Fairview Avenue Bridge and the Veteran’s Memorial Parkway Bridge.

The primary water feature will be the rebuilt irrigation diversion, Thurman Mill, that at certain water levels is already popular with paddlers (the 36th Street wave).  This structure currently presents significant hazards.  It is deteriorating, exposing slabs of broken cement and protruding rebar.  The site is also that of a former industrial area, and one that conservationists and recreationists alike agree is in need of clean up and rehabilitation.

The Greenbelt is a busy commuter route here, adjacent residential neighborhoods include everything from high-end condos to apartments to residential areas served by two title one schools.  Studies show that of those who use similar parks across the country, 80 to 90 percent are spectators, and we anticipate that many of the users of the park will be its neighbors.  We are planning accordingly with seating and viewpoints along the river, accommodations for parking, access and gatherings.

Plans include rebuilding the diversion with an adjustable structure (Phase I), affording the irrigation company the water they need year round, while significantly reducing the hazards the current structure presents to paddlers.  Our project will also rehabilitate the shoreline and riverbed, which shows evidence of the site’s former use as an industrial area.  Downstream from the diversion, we plan a number of in-water and shoreline features (Phase II) attractive to paddlers of various levels of expertise, as well as access.  Our total project budget incorporates some of the infrastructure of the adjacent Esther Simplot Park, such as a parking lot, a restroom and shelter.

Where we are now

Planning a river park in an urban setting has presented a unique set of challenges, requiring coordination between two municipalities, three irrigation districts, DEQ, FEMA, and the Army Corps of Engineers among other entities.  Last spring, the City of Boise signed an historic agreement with the Thurman Mill Irrigation District that allowed the design of a rebuilt diversion to proceed.  In March 2010, construction documentation for Phase I of the park – replacing the Thurman Mill diversion with a structure featuring patented wave shaper technology – was finalized.

While fundraising for the $4 million Phase I of the park continued, the Friends of the Park board decided to move forward with augmenting the bank of the Boise River at the site of the planned new structure.  This spring, contractors partially drained the adjacent Quinn’s Pond and brought in fill to augment the bank between the river and the pond.  This will make it possible for the bank to support the new diversion, as well as provide space for a Greenbelt diversion around heavy traffic areas, and space for spectator seating.  The work on the river bank has been completed, and Quinn’s Pond has been allowed to refill.  The pond and Greenbelt are now open again to the public.  As fundraising allows, the Friends of the Park board and the City of Boise will progress with ordering the Wave Shaper and in-river work.

Fundraising Continues

Early on, the City of Boise invested $750,000 toward this project.  Since then, private fundraising efforts have raised another $1.3 million.  Recently, Boise City Council voted to contribute another $750,000 to be matched by private contributions.  With construction documents completed, along with planning and permitting and the Thurman Mill agreement in hand, the completion of Phase I now depends upon fundraising.  To that end, volunteers are working to raise another $1.4 million.  Organizers say that their fundraising success over the next two months will determine whether construction on Phase I (which must also be coordinated to coincide with low water months of fall and winter) will be completed in the Spring of 2011 or 2012.

Phase II of the park is anticipated to bring the total cost of the park to $6.7 million, with additional features and access.  The design for that portion of the park will depend upon the design for the adjacent Esther Simplot Park, which is in development.

To learn more about opportunities to contribute to this project, call Beth Markley, 208-484-4424, or email  Donors can make contributions online at or on

The Benefits of the Ray Neef, MD, River Recreation Park

There are a number of reasons why we are developing the Ray Neef, MD, River Recreation Park:

The economy. Of the more than 75% of the American population who engage in healthy outdoor activities, 24 million enjoy paddling sports. More than 150,000 Idahoans in 2007 enjoyed paddle sports – the same number as enjoyed winter snow sports such as skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding combined. Whitewater parks in Golden and Vail, Colorado, contribute up to an estimated $2 million annually to their respective economies, and a park in Breckenridge contributes an annual $1.4 million.  A park in Reno has an estimated annual impact of more than $4 million.

The Community. The park has already been identified as a site for YMCA and Boise Parks Department programs including boating classes, day camps and other programs: putting children in touch with the natural world. It has the additional benefit of being accessible to the families of the surrounding Veterans Park Neighborhood, and sections of Boise and Garden City that have been identified as disinvested.  Students of two Title I schools live within walking distance from the park.

A pedestrian footbridge is planned just downstream of the Thurman Mill Diversion.  This collaborative project of the Boise and Garden City, and projected to enhance access to Esther Simplot Park and Ray Neef, MD, River Recreation Park, by commuters and residents.

In addition, with their leadership gift of $1,000,000 to the Campaign for River Recreation, the Harvey and Margo Neef Family have named the park in memory of their son, Ray.  Their desire is for the park to be a model for safety in outdoor recreation.  Designers have taken the relative safety of this facility very seriously, designing ample take-out space and features for various levels of expertise.  Currently, the Thurman Mill diversion structure represents a number of safety hazards, yet is still popular with paddlers.  Our interest is in providing a safe, enjoyable recreation opportunity for paddlers, their families, neighborhood residents and their children, as well as casual park users and commuters on the Greenbelt.

Preservation and Conservation. The Ray Neef, MD, River Recreation Park will revitalize a neglected stretch of the Boise River. Here, the riparian area and riverbed have been marginalized.  The park area is the former site of a concrete plant.  Littered with rebar and blocks of concrete, native plants and trees struggle to retain a foothold along its banks.  Development of the park is projected to improve fish habitat and will accommodate the winter roosting season for native birds of prey, including bald eagles

Add comment July 22, 2010