April 12: Well, we did it. We walked the last open greenbelt loop. With much of the greenbelt literally underwater or otherwise officially closed, those of us who have decided to make 2017 our year of walking the greenbelt are finding options few and far between. We have crossed trail closed signs in places. But I don’t feel good about it. Before the mass closures, we started on numerous walks, only to have to turn back halfway or even nearly to the end due to flooded pathways. Now the City of Boise is sending their police officers out on the trails to warn people of the dangerous conditions. It’s still beautiful out there. But unpredictable.
This week, we hit what appears to be the last officially open loop for walkers on the greenbelt. Starting at Bown Crossing, we walked up the residential street trail parallel to Boise River’s south shore up to Barber Park, which turns out was flooded and underwater itself. There, we crossed the river via Eckert Road, and walked back along the north shore walking/biking trail that runs between Warm Springs Avenue and Marianne Williams Park. The final leg was crossing Parkcenter bridge and returning to Bown Crossing. It was a beautiful day, sunny, glorious and springlike. And I was pleasantly surprised that this loop, despite walking on residential streets part of the way, was lovely and interesting to walk on this day.
April Walk #2 Bown Crossing to Barber Park Loop
3.91 miles. Front pack. Strollers. Bike. This route is actually the greenbelt cyclist bypass. The main path, that runs right along the river, is part of the Bethine Church River Trail, which is unpaved and inaccessible to bikes. The route described here is great if you want to take your kids around these parts by bike. The Bethine Church trail has been closed due to flooding, so this was the best route for walkers on this day too. There are bathrooms at Barber Park. Once open, there will be bathrooms available at the Bown Crossing Public Library Branch. On the north side, bathrooms at Marianne Williams Park are open year round.
Getting there by car: Starting at 16th and State Street, here is the quickest route according to Google maps. From State Street, turn onto 16th heading south. At Main Street turn left. Zig zag right at 13th Street, and then left onto Myrtle. Follow Myrtle and then continue straight down E Park Blvd. Veer slightly to the right onto Parkcenter Blvd. Turn right into the Bown Crossing Library parking lot right before Bown Way.
Trail directions: From the library, walk along the sidewalk right next to the brick-lined street and onto Bown Way. Cross at the crosswalk and turn left. As you near Parkcenter bridge, the sidewalk will veer to the right. Veer with it and you will find yourself heading towards the river. If you are walking and the Bethine Church River Trail is open, I recommend taking that route. Otherwise, the alternate trail will make a sharp right before you get the the river and take you towards the neighborhood. At the first street the trail crosses and then heads left. Follow the sidewalk along houses, under trees, past a tiny little pocket park, until the trail re-crosses the street. Cross and continue on. You will pass a chain-link-fenced off canal, and arrive at the east end of Barber Park, which is mostly grass, with some structures, including a playground, at the far end. Once you pass the picnic shelter, you can stay on the trail headed through Barber Park and right to Eckert Road. Or, of course, you can explore Barber Park a little or a lot before you continue on. Sooner or later cross the Boise River at Eckert Road and follow the sidewalk to the paved bike and pedestrian path that heads to the left. This will be past the unpaved trail that runs right along the river. Follow the paved trail to the left and continue on all the way to Parkcenter bridge where you will recross the river and make your way back to Bown Crossing. If Marianne Williams Park is open, going though it is a nicer route headed to the Parkcenter Bridge. Access Marianne Williams from the paved bike/pedestrian path where the trail splits about ½ mile along. Veer to the left to head through the park and along the river. Bikes are allowed on the paved sections of the park.
Our walk: We parked our car at the new, not yet opened, Boise Public Library Bown Crossing Branch. It’s a beautiful building with soaring windows and a stone colored facade.
It’s exciting this library will be opening soon to add to the list of library/greenbelt pairings (Main Library, Garden City Library) that make perfect outings for families. A little reading. A little nature. The simple good life is all I’m sayin.
In front of the library building, there is a fancy new brick road and paved sidewalk that run straight from the library to the main road. Not too far from there is the greenbelt entrance.
The lovely Bethine Church River Trail at the intersection of Parkcenter Bridge and the Boise River is closed due to flooding. While there were some people and dogs admiring the river at this spot, the length is not walkable and there is a closed trail sign a short ways along.
Normally walkers would take this riverfront trail, but without that option, we did the next best thing and took the parallel trail that makes this route available to bike riders (Bethine Church River Trail is pedestrian only). The alternate section winds along a residential street, past a sweet little pocket park, along the fenced off canalway, and into an open grassy area of Barber Park. This trail up to Barber Park is well removed from the river so it doesn’t feel exactly greenbelty, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lushness, and especially the many trees that are in bloom with cherry blossom-like flowers now. Some of them were super fragrant as we walked by.
On into Barber Park, there is open grass, a playground structure, picnic tables and a basketball court when you enter from this direction. There were several people enjoying the beautiful day here, because see that blue sky?
As we got to the parking lot, it became apparent that the floods had come to Barber Park. The parking lots closest to the river were veritable lakes, complete with happy duck couples mucking about.
The usual boat launch was underwater and the riverfront had moved onto the shore. A woman who we met there said she had seen the water deeper and the park more flooded than this (back during high water in 2012), but what we were seeing was pretty amazing to me.
And we saw this while taking in the Barber Park scene. I’m not sure it was a good idea with the river flooding like it is.
We crossed the river at Eckert Road and finally got some great river vistas. The bridge here was closed to cars, not due to flooding though.
It appears that there is a significant new development going in, and the streets are torn up for laying sewer and water lines. Luckily, pedestrians were free to roam about.
Onto the north shore, and again the trail closest to the river was completely underwater.
We continued past it to the paved pedestrian/bike path and steered ourselves back towards Parkcenter. The day was so lovely and there were lots of walkers and bicyclists out and about. As they have been for our last couple of walks now, the red-winged blackbirds were present in abundance, singing and trilling for mates. The water was clearly flooded here, and was riffly and flowing even up to the pathway. The trees and fields abutting the trail were overrun. Some cattails are evidence that there is standing water along parts of this open space, but walking next to a virtual river on this part of the greenbelt is not standard.
Marianne Williams Park is officially closed and we saw many sections of it totally underwater and not usable. However, there may be a detour along the higher paved sections through the park that would take you back to Parkcenter. I did see people going where the trail splits and heads into Marianne Williams, and there was no trail closed sign. I decided to do the officially open loop this time. But it might be worth exploring to see if there is a through-path in the park.
Baby Jenas was super sweet and fun on this walk. She sat up tall playing with her feet and pointing at every dog that we saw. On other walks she has sometimes started to get a little antsy, but for some reason the timing was right and she enjoyed this 1.5 hour walk up until the very end. I did have to feed her crackers to get through the last 20 minutes though.
Since it was sunny and warm out, I made an enhanced stroller sunshade by putting a blanket over top and hanging down. Those little colored toy chain links are great for clipping blankets and things to strollers, by the way. Even with some light gusts of wind and the jostling of the stroller in motion, the blanket stayed put. I was able to hang it down just far enough to block the sun from Jena’s face, but still retain her view of the trail. Hey, you do what works.
On the last bit of the walk, I saw my first kingfisher of the year. It was sitting on a telephone wire over-exposed by the sun, but it’s silhouette was unmistakable. Oh how I love kingfishers. I hope it will be the first sighting of many this year. They are also one of the birds whose chittery calls I recognize. When I hear them out by the river, I always look to discover where they are and enjoy their antics.
And I also loved the view at the end of our walk.
We didn’t make it back to the car right away. Instead we met up with my sweetie, and Jena’s dad, for a beer and dinner at Flatbread Community Oven. A perfect way to wind up our excursion on what may be the only greenbelt loop available for a while.