Scenic Table Rock parking gone for good. A longer walk to the top. What just happened

·5 min read

Hoping to watch a Table Rock sunset? That just got a little harder.

Following new decisions from the Ada County Highway District, a portion of East Table Rock Road will no longer be open to the public. Property owners and local groups say the reduced access is needed to prevent “scofflaws, interlopers, and ne’er-do-wells” from damaging the Table Rock area.

Issues of graffiti, vandalism, destruction of private property, illegal parking and erosion of the landmark continue to plague Table Rock despite recent attempts to stop them. The place sees 160,000 visitors per year, many of whom are sneaking in at night.

The Idaho State Historical Society, which manages the state-owned Table Rock and nearby lands, closed the 30-vehicle parking area at the top of the mesa in June 2020 because of those problems. It initially announced the closure would last through the end of the year.

“During the last several months, private security contracted by ISHS and local law enforcement have reported turning away between 120 to 250 vehicles attempting to visit the landmark during night and early morning hours,” a 2020 Idaho State Historical news release said. “Instances of trespassing on adjacent private property, violence, drug use and setting of fires have been reported, as well as increased cases of vandalism, graffiti, property damage, destruction of signage and littering.”

Then early this year, before its usual spring opening, the society decided to permanently close the parking lot.

“The main reason for that decision was not having the resources to police the area,” Amber Beierle, the society’s site administrator, said by phone.

In February, the Boise City Council tried to address vandalism by installing a new Table Rock access gate at the intersection of Alto Via Court and Wild Horse Lane that cut off vehicle access to East Table Rock Road from sunset to sunrise. At night, only those who live beyond the gate are allowed access.

Vandals find ways around roadblocks

But residents and law enforcement officers say things haven’t improved since the gate’s installation, and more serious steps are needed. People have still found other ways to get to Table Rock at night.

The Table Rock Access Advisory Committee and the historical society, backed by police and park officials, asked the Ada County Highway District, which controls the road, to declare the road closed to public vehicles to allow for the relocation of the gate two-tenths miles down the road.

“The unfettered access vehicles have to the gravel roadway that leads up to the current location of the existing gate allows them to ‘hide,’ which makes it more difficult for law enforcement to effectively patrol and enforce illegal acts,” their application said.

An illegal parking area on that stretch of road, just below a second gate, has become a popular spot both day and night. The place where people park is located on privately owned property. The owner has asked for help solving this problem.

“Parties, mischief, alcohol consumption, and illegal activities occur almost every night, when the area is posted as being closed, at or near this illegal parking area,” the application said.

A photo shows the area where visitors to Table Rock have taken to illegally parking. Gerhard Borbonus, owner of Gerhard Borbonus Landscape, wrote a letter in support of moving the gate. His employees drive through the area on their way home from a quarry on the other side. “When our men come down the road to go home at the end of the day, they must wait for someone to move their car,” Gerhard’s letter stated. “You can imagine how they feel waiting on someone who was illegally parked.”
A photo shows the area where visitors to Table Rock have taken to illegally parking. Gerhard Borbonus, owner of Gerhard Borbonus Landscape, wrote a letter in support of moving the gate. His employees drive through the area on their way home from a quarry on the other side. “When our men come down the road to go home at the end of the day, they must wait for someone to move their car,” Gerhard’s letter stated. “You can imagine how they feel waiting on someone who was illegally parked.”

The application was submitted by Doug Bates, co-chair of the Table Rock Access Advisory Committee, and Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society and historic preservation officer for the state. It included letters of support from the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Boise Police Department, Boise Parks and Recreation Department, private owners and others.

The applicants called on the highway district to declare East Table Rock Road “unopened public right-of-way and excluded from the Ada County Highway District Systems of Highway” to allow for the relocation of a gate to cut off further access to the road. District commissioners voted in favor of these resolutions last week.

A gate will be placed at the end of the paved section of Table Rock Road, just after the intersection with Wild Horse Lane, and remain closed at all times to unauthorized vehicles.

Instead of buying a new gate, the Idaho State Historical Society will relocate the gate that currently sits 0.2 miles up the road from that intersection.

The Table Rock entrance gate is being relocated to prevent people from illegally parking on the gravel section of Table Rock Road.
The Table Rock entrance gate is being relocated to prevent people from illegally parking on the gravel section of Table Rock Road.

New gate to benefit hikers and police

Hikers and cyclists will still be allowed access to the road.

“The relocation will not prevent visitors from hiking and enjoying the scenic Mesa,” said an ACHD news release.

Applicants said the illegal parking area has created safety hazards for hikers, bikers and employees at a quarry company who are authorized to drive large vehicles through. Increased off-roading from the illegal parking area creates a fire hazard as hot undercarriages drive over dry grass, they said.

Applicants said the sheriff’s office, whose deputies conduct twice daily checks of the area, “waste significant time” trying to locate people who illegally parked their vehicles before hiking off into the Foothills.

“The narrow roads and lack of parking have created a burden for law enforcement,” John Harris, sergeant with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, wrote in a letter of support. “Moving the gate to where the pavement ends and the dirt road begins will not prevent people from hiking to the mesa but will prevent them from being tempted to park in a no-parking zone. Our deputies would be of better service to the citizens of Ada County patrolling all areas of the Foothills rather than monitoring this location and issuing parking citations.”

A photo shows the new location of the Table Rock Road Gate, just past the Wild Horse Lane intersection.
A photo shows the new location of the Table Rock Road Gate, just past the Wild Horse Lane intersection.

Sally Krutzig covers Treasure Valley growth and development. Have a story suggestion or a question? Email Krutzig at skrutzig@idahostatesman.com.

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