More changes are on the way to Quinn’s Pond to combat harmful algae blooms and other bacteria that often force the popular swimming hole to close in the summer months.
In a few weeks, the City of Boise will complete the first phase in a new project to introduce more water from the Boise River into Quinn’s Pond and another swimming area in Esther Simplot Park. This new pipe, along with a second one set to be installed later this year, will help boost water circulation in the complex and hopefully reduce the number of closures.
Project to improve water circulation
Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park is a hot destination through the summer for people across the Treasure Valley for swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking. But, the warm temperatures in the ponds at the height of summer make them susceptible to the same blue-green algae blooms commonly found across southwestern Idaho. E. Coli, from dogs, geese, and trace amounts from humans, has also been an issue in the ponds.
The 36-inch pipe being installed now will bring in water from the Boise River to Quinn’s Pond, which will cool the water temperature down and keep the pond circulating to cut down on outbreaks. In October, crews will install another pipe at Esther Simplot pond 2 back into the Boise River to keep water moving in a circuit. The project had to be split into two phases because of the irrigation season and the water rights process.
Boise City Engineer Jim Pardy said there could still be closures this summer because the project won’t be totally complete until next swimming season, but he believes it will make an impact.
“(The park) ends up almost becoming a sidestream like it was way back in the day,” Pardy said, about the project. “We’re kind of bringing it back to the way it originally was.”
These improvements will cost the City of Boise between $550,000 to $650,000.
Adding on to 2019 projects
This is not the first change to improve the area’s water quality.
In 2019, Boise Parks and Recreation instituted a number of fixes to improve the ponds. The city banned dogs from Esther Simplot Park, except for passing through on the Greenbelt, educated the public on the importance of using swim diapers for their children and hired an independent contractor to frequently chase geese away with his dog. Engineers put in 24 aerators in Quinn’s Pond to keep water moving from the bottom of the pond up to the surface, which run between 30 and 45 feet deep.
The city also installed a smaller pipe to bring water in from the Boise River to test the idea of introducing river water to the system. The new pipe showed promise for the concept, but because it was installed higher up on the shoreline because of water rights from the state it only fed the pond in the earlier months of the year when the Boise River ran high with snowmelt.
Pardy said the city did not want to install the full pipes until they saw evidence it would make an impact, but the results from installing the smaller pipe in 2019 combined with the aerators and education measures was promising enough to proceed.
Years of cleanup efforts from the city
Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said the city values the complex and “moved heaven and Earth” to clean it up in the past. This dedication to the popular park continues with this new round of improvements, he said.
Before Esther Simplot Park opened in 2016, the city discovered the soil at the bottom of ponds 1 and 2 was contaminated from a concrete and asphalt manufacturing company that used to work in the area. The city and the J.R. Simplot family, which built the park, spent a total of $6.2 million to clean the area before the park could open.
“The whole goal is to keep the ponds open…,” Holloway said. “We’ve got a significant investment here and we want to make sure the public has the opportunity to use it.”
This summer also marks the opening of a smaller park on the bank near the Greenbelt across Quinn’s Pond from the swimming beach.
The 4-acre Bernadine Quinn’s Riverside Park is a nature-themed park with natural landscaping, steps down to the pond and a fishing dock. Holloway said they hope this park will improve access to the pond from another direction and relieve pressure on the overburdened parking area in Esther Simplot by giving visitors another option.
Overflow parking will be available at the parking lot owned by College of Western Idaho on Main Street.