Country club scraps controversial plan to expand golf course to Boise River island

·3 min read

A Garden City country club has scrapped plans to apply for a golf course expansion to an island in the Boise River, a proposal that drew pushback from a local conservation group.

The River Club, formerly known as Plantation Country Club, started talks with the Idaho Department of Lands in early 2020 to lease an island located southwest of the existing course, just east of the Glenwood Bridge. The proposal was part of a course redesign that country club officials said was prompted by the Ada County Highway District’s plan to expand State Street on the north border of the golf course. (ACHD has put the road expansion on hold, according to its online project plan.)

David Lehman, a spokesman for the River Club, told the Statesman in a phone interview Tuesday that country club officials had backed off the plan, which would have connected three holes to the island.

“After we had a chance to do some analysis on what it was going to take (to execute the plan) ... what came back was that there was no way that we could estimate how long it would take to do that,” Lehman said. “There just was no way to time the things that would need to happen with the island to what’s happening on State Street.”

The River Club would have had to establish a lease with the Idaho Department of Lands to use the public trust land. It also would have needed approval from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers and other stakeholders. Lehman said that between the approvals and the uncertain timeline for the road expansion, the plan was too unwieldy to move forward.

“Instead of potentially holding up the entire redesign ... Will (Gustafson, owner of the River Club) just made the decision to operate in existing footprint,” Lehman said.

Lehman said the course will still undergo a redesign to accommodate the road expansion. Updates will include a new entrance at the intersection of Pierce Park Lane and State Street.

Lehman said the River Club never formally submitted an application to the Department of Lands for a lease, which the department confirmed.

The Idaho Conservation League, which raised concerns about the course expansion last December, celebrated the about-face in a note to supporters. The organization said more than 3,500 people signed a petition urging stakeholders to reject any applications the River Club submitted.

“We have no animosity with the River Club,” said Idaho Conservation League external relations director Jonathan Oppenheimer. “... We just didn’t like their original proposal. We’re encouraged by their decision (to abandon the plan).”

Oppenheimer said that although the Idaho Conservation League was opposed to construction on the island for the River Club’s private use, the organization doesn’t necessarily oppose all potential development there.

“(There have been) a lot of efforts to work on pathways and bridges (to the island),” Oppenheimer said. “It’s different when you’re talking about facilitating public access and ensuring the public has the ability to get onto their state lands. That’s a lot different from private use.”

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