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Developer of former Plantation club hopes to bring golf to Boise River ‘island’

As part of the redevelopment of the former Plantation Country Club in Garden City, the developer began exploring the use of an area in the Boise River for golf facilities.

The golf course, now known as The River Club, would add a new hole, tee boxes and green on a portion of land owned by the State of Idaho that sits in the channel of the Boise River. Though often called an island, the land is connected to the river banks except when water is at its highest during the spring.

David Lehman of Primus Policy Group represents River Club owner Glass Creek, LLC on the project. He said owner Will Gustafson and the course designer started to look for creative solutions to reconfigure the course after purchasing it in 2018. The Ada County Highway District will soon take control of a strip of land on the north side of the course, which will trigger removal of the current 10th hole.

[2019: Plantation owner begins process to rework golf course ahead of State St. revamp]

“They are looking at ways to be creative,” Lehman said. “They are looking at different ways to maximize not only what will be the remaining land, but also look at expanding to the island.”

BoiseDev obtained 250 pages of records related to the concept from the Idaho Department of Lands under Idaho’s public information act. Ron E. Bush of Boise, who lives nearby, initially requested the records last month. They eventually found their way to the Idaho Conservation League, which came out against the concept.

[Wilks Brothers list massive piece of property near McCall for sale]

What’s proposed

The area Glass Creek hopes to develop in the Boise River. Courtesy Glass Creek LLC

According to the records, and additional information provided by Lehman to BoiseDev, Glass Creek would lease a portion of the peninsula from the Idaho Department of Lands. The site would host a new teebox, fairway and hole, as well as a tee box for one additional hole that would continue back on the north side of the river. Golfers would access the island via a new footbridge over the river from the River Club.

The current plan differs slightly from one included in the public records release, and includes a smaller footprint on the island. The changes came after a meeting with several public agencies, Glass Creek and consultants on the project in October.

“(The court designer has) really gone back and designed the course so it disrupts as little of that land as possible,” Lehman said. “This configuration keeps most of it above the high water mark.”

Public access

Via Glass Creek LLC, Idaho Dept. of Lands public record

The land is owned by the State of Idaho as “public trust land.” These lands are part of the state’s land endowment – but differ in that state low prohibits them from being sold or traded. If you’ve seen BoiseDev’s recent coverage of Trident Holding’s proposal in the McCall area – these lands differ in that the only action the state can take on them is to provide a lease, where as general endowment lands could be auctioned or trade away.

“Title to these lands is held in trust and is administered for the public benefit rather than for a specific beneficiary,” the Department of Lands notes on its website. “IDL manages these lands to provide for their commercial, navigational, recreational and other uses.”

The land must remain accessible to the public in some way, according to Lehman. Glass Creek hopes to add public amenities to the island.

“We are looking at building nature trails further to the east along the Greenbelt,” he said.

The project could also include improved access to the river for anglers and others.

Lehman said the island now is “in rough shape.”

“In the summer time, you would have run into two or three different camps out there. It’s not a very safe place to go for some of those summer months,” he said. “It’s in need of some work and some maintenance and some investment.”

Concerns raised

The Idaho Conservation League, in a blog post based on the public records, raised a number of concerns.

“The development of a private golf course on a natural floodplain would restrict public access, impact access for fishing and navigation, and lead to other direct and indirect effects to the floodplain, water quality, wildlife habitat, and other values,” the post from Jonathan Oppenheimer said.

Lehman said they hope to come up with a solution that both improves the golf course – but the island for other users as well.

“I do think that the purpose of all this is to improve that island, make it a nice playable hole for the members of the club and also bring in a significant access point for the public, so they can use it and get to the river,” Lehman said.

Lehman said the partners could consider opening up a new north to south access from the area that currently hosts Expo Idaho to the south, through the River Club grounds and up to Boise on the north. An unrelated project proposal from Boise developer Tommy Ahlquist and others would redevelop the Expo Idaho site, which sits immediately to the south of the island.

“Will (Gustafson) wants to do the right thing,” Lehman said. “He wants to expand the course to the south on to the island but he wants to do it the right way. If there are mitigations that are necessary, he wants to do it. If he can provide access, he will do that.”

To move forward, the project would need approval from a variety of government agencies. It would also need to secure a lease from the Idaho Land Board.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at don@boisedev.com.

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