By: Tetona Dunlap (view original article)

It all started with an idea to build a bike path connecting Hagerman to Billingsley Creek.

And what was a short stretch has now grown to miles of trails.

Hagerman Mayor Noel C. Weir approached Craig Laughlin last year to head the initial bike path project. He’s the president of the Hagerman Bike and Walk Committee, which is overseeing the proposed trail system that will link businesses, state and national parks and other destinations in the Hagerman Valley.

On Friday, members of the Hagerman Bike and Walk Committee will team up with 12 landscape architects and 12 local experts during a workshop called the Hagerman Valley Pathways Community Design Charrette. They will design the trails, create a unique identity for the trail system and promote the different types of use such as walking, biking, birding and horseback riding.

A community open house will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Hagerman School Gymnasium. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on the pathway design the teams will come up with during the two-day workshop.

Laughlin estimated the completed project will cost between $7 to $8 million and will include 35 miles of new trails. The workshop was made possible through a grant from the National Park Service that was awarded in October.

The group’s plan is to finish the first leg of the project — from city park to Billinglsey Creek State Park — by next year.

“It’s just getting off the ground,” Laughlin said. “It will take four or five years before you see it all tied together.”

Charrettes, or design workshops, have been used in other Idaho community projects including the Barber Pool Conservation Area Interpretive Trail, Caldwell’s Indian Creek Daylighting Project and the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

“We are trying to boost tourism, plus we are trying to give local people something to do,” Laughlin said. “There is kind of threefold thing — tourism, safety and health for the citizens.”

Suzanne Jensen, the group’s secretary/treasurer, has lived in the Hagerman Valley for 30 years working as a real estate agent. An avid walker, she said the only sidewalks are along State Street or U.S. 30, which cuts through town. Jensen recalled more than once when she and her walking partner had to jump up on the curb to avoid getting hit by a vehicle.

“This is beautiful valley and so much what we have in the natural setting isn’t readily available for visitors,” Jensen said. “I think it’s a really sound plan. We are excited about it. There is pretty good momentum.”

They workshop attendees will also design trail signage, discuss how to make State Street look and function more like a Main Street and and how to transform Hagerman into a hub town for bicycling.

“They call it a branding,” Jensen said. “A representation of community ideals and that tell who Hagerman is.”

David Landrum, Thousand Springs State Park manager, is a member of the Hagerman Bike and Walk Committee.

“We get a lot of different visitors at all our park units and a lot of visitors have bikes with them,” Landrum said. “We are hoping the visitors that we get off the freeway will take these trails. It will benefit everybody and showcase what Hagerman has for people to see.”

Last year committee members took a tour of the project’s proposed sites. Jensen said there were spots in the Hagerman Valley she didn’t even know existed. Landscape architects and regional experts will also take the same tour before the weekend charrette begins.

“I’m hoping when people come to Hagerman they will stay a little longer if we have a nice bike path and walking path,” Jensen said. “A lot of times people will come and use the river, but I’m hoping they will take the opportunity to explore. Even local residents don’t realize a lot of the natural beauty that is out there.”