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Warm Springs Preserve-‘What We Just Did Was Big’
Friday, May 6, 2022


Ali Long likes to think of the new Warm Springs Preserve as Ketchum’s Central Park.

It’s a place that’s green, a place where anyone is welcome and a place with the potential for human connection, she said.

“We saw how important open space was during the pandemic. It was the only place we could connect,” she added.

Long is a member of the committee that led a successful campaign to raise $9 million to purchase 65 acres of what used to be the Warm Springs Ranch and provide a million dollars for irrigation, restrooms, benches and other improvements.

The City of Ketchum recently closed on the purchase of the land, which will be left open in perpetuity. Only $9,647 is left to reach the campaign goal of $9 million.

“Building affordable housing on that land was not an option,” Long said, in response to those who have suggested at least part of the land should be set aside for workforce housing. “This was offered to the city for the unique purpose of preservation. Take it or leave it.”

Wendolyn Holland, who wrote the coffee table book “Sun Valley: An Extraordinary History,” noted that the Warm Springs Preserve offers a different type of experience than the many hiking trails surrounding Sun Valley.

“We’re surrounded by open lands, but this is different. It offers green space, of which there’s not a lot of in Ketchum, and it’s accessible for people with wheelchairs and others with mobility issues,” she said.

Holland, who has spent recent years working in the clean energy sector in Washington, D.C., said that had the property been in Aspen or Park City it probably would have been developed long ago. It wasn’t, she said, because of how difficult the Sun Valley area—and the Warm Springs area—is to access.

When explorers came through, they went up the valley where Highway 75 now runs between the Smoky Mountains and Boulder Mountains on their way to Galena Summit and beyond. The way through Warm Springs Canyon and over Dollarhide Summit was much more rugged.

Eastern corporations looking to exploit the west did build a lead and silver smelter at the mouth of Warm Springs Canyon in the vicinity of Broadway and Sunnyside streets. And Guyer Hot Springs resort, which was built just beyond what is now the ski resort, attracted the well-to-do dressed in their finery.

But, when the price of silver collapsed, the property was divvied up. Owen Simpson, who founded the Sawtooth Club, built Warm Springs Ranch to accommodate a gambling operation. And he built the Devil’s Bedstead, which he moved south of Ketchum to an area near where the Ketchum Korral now sits,  when the state outlawed gambling.

Over the years, years the Warm Springs Ranch became the site of a popular restaurant, nine-hole golf course and tennis courts.

Developer Bob Brennan is building 35 lots on the southeastern corner of the property; others have tried to build hotels and golf courses on the property.

The property has water rights dating to 1888—about the time of the smelter—which allows the property to be irrigated. Scott Boettger said the Wood River Land Trust is working with others on a master plan that will restore the creek on the property and turn part of the preserve into an intentional flood plain to alleviate flooding of homes downstream.

There will be off-leash dog areas, a frisbee golf course, beach, trail and restrooms. Picnics will be allowed but organized activities like baseball will not.

The master planning committee hopes to work with the Forest Service on a connector trail to the Warm Springs side of Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain.

“It has incredible potential,” said Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw. “It’s important we create a flow, create a connection. I know a connector trail is possible and there are some million-dollar views up there.”

The Friends of Warm Springs committee will continue to raise money for capital improvements for the preserve that are outside the city’s budget. And the city plans to hold a Solstice Party to thank the community for its support in acquiring the property on June 21. There will be three bands from 2 to 10 p.m. with food vendors and a silent auction.

“This shows how we as a community can do great things,” said Holland. “What we just did was really big, and we did it together a community.”


The Warm Springs campaign committee included Ali Long, Michael Mars, David and Kimberly Barenborg, Susan Flynt, Connie Hoffman, Sally Onetto, Kathy Wygle, Nick Miller , Chiyo Parten, Bob Burkheimer and Neil Bradshaw

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