Creating a community legacy
In 2011, the Jackson Hole Land Trust and The LOR Foundation partnered to acquire 3 parcels at the crossroads of Jackson, Wilson, and Teton Village. Rather than a closing, this historic land deal has marked the beginning of a journey for the community of Jackson Hole and the partners and supporters of this project.
The 40-acre property is located on the banks of the Snake River near the northwest intersection of Wyoming Highway 22 and 390 – at the nexus of Jackson, Wilson, and Teton Village. Located across from the popular Emily’s Pond recreational area (also a JHLT protected property), it contains the community-accessed Wilson Boat Launch and a portion of the Snake River levee system, and the remnants of a gravel storage and distribution operation. In addition, natural vegetation, wetlands, ponds, and roads exist on site.
Given the property’s strategic location, the value the community places on the property, and the opportunity to guarantee community access in perpetuity, the Jackson Hole Land Trust has sought to protect the River Springs – Rendezvous Park property since 2009, when the previous landowner decided to sell it. Since the outset of these protection efforts, collaboration with other community stakeholders has been key for raising awareness about the project and envisioning a plan for the future.
When the River Springs – Rendezvous Park property first went on the market in 2009/2010, the Land Trust and its partners made several competitive offers but were ultimately outbid by another party. However, the resounding community support for the project provided momentum for a new effort. In December 2011, the Jackson Hole Land Trust and The LOR Foundation forged a key new partnership to negotiate and finance a deal with the property’s new owners, with timely support from The Conservation Fund, which provided bridge financing to the Land Trust for the project. The property’s new owner is now the Rendezvous Lands Conservancy, a non-profit entity created by the Land Trust and LOR.
The River Springs – Rendezvous Park property is critical to the public’s use and enjoyment of the Snake River. It is a popular access point for the Snake River at the Wilson boat launch, as well as the swimming and fishing opportunities afforded by the river itself. The Jackson Hole Land Trust has made a significant investment over the past 30 years in working with landowners to conserve land along the river corridor between Wilson and South Park for the benefit of the public. The acquisition of this property ensures that the public’s access to the river is secure, and has created opportunities to enhance that access in the future.
A Community Centerpiece
River Springs – Rendezvous Park is located at the crossroads between Jackson, Wilson, and Teton Village. This strategic location has made it the site of proposed plans to connect a paved pedestrian and bike pathway system linking these areas, and including a pathway bridge over the Snake River linking the property with Emily’s Pond. In addition, a new natural park, to be created for the use and enjoyment of Teton County residents and visitors, will enhance the recreational amenities already existing at the site and transform the existing gravel operations into an ecologically functioning landscape. The location of an 11-acre parcel of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management directly to the south will also allow us to leverage River Springs – Rendezvous Park to create an even larger area of public open space… and the realization of a true community centerpiece.
Community input has been an integral part of the design process for the River Springs – Rendezvous Park Project – our way of ensuring that the ultimate design will be attractive, welcoming, functional, and respective of our vibrant and varying user groups. Last spring, we engaged the community through an online survey, invitations to a series of open houses, and at our Solstice at the Park event held out on the future park land. It was a beautiful evening – a wonderful community gathering in celebration of the proposed new park at River Springs.
The park is expected to be complete in Fall 2013/Spring 2014, and preliminary earth work is underway. The pathway bridge between Emily’s Pond and River Springs – Rendezvous Park, a Friends of Pathways and Jackson Hole Community Pathways project, is also underway.