The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Idaho will officially break ground this April on a major enhancement project at its flagship 881-acre Silver Creek Preserve. Following the approval from Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commissioners last fall for a Site-Alteration and Conditional Use permits, changes to the Visitor Center will begin mid-April.
Infrastructure improvements are part of the comprehensive Silver Creek Enhancement Plan, a five-year project led by TNC in partnership with the community, to enhance the overall visitor experience, expand community and youth education opportunities and continue restoration and habitat enhancement of the creek ecosystem. These critical investments will ensure the long-term sustainability of the Preserve for people and nature alike.
This portion of the project will feature the construction of a redesigned visitor center, which includes the creation of a new classroom facility and other essential upgrades that will increase visitor accessibility and safety and provide new opportunities for youth and community engagement. The existing structure will be replaced by an updated and modernized visitor education center that better supports community needs, designed by Ketchum-based architect Rebecca F. Bundy. TNC has hired Ketchum-based contractor Idaho Mountain Builders to oversee construction. Safer and more economical to rebuild rather than retrofit, the new center’s design will aim to incorporate repurposed materials and will remain in the same location on the Preserve. The new visitor center and classroom are expected to reopen in Spring 2022.
While the Visitor Center will be closed to the public during construction, the Preserve will remain open for public enjoyment and recreation. A temporary kiosk with visitor information, an updated map and electronic sign-in instructions will be available during the closure. Popular recreation activities such as fishing and hiking will remain available. For visitors’ safety and to protect sensitive habitats, visitors are asked to use designated trails and access points, follow signage, avoid the construction area and use the digital sign-in upon arrival.
Upon completion of the infrastructure projects, TNC will expand community outreach and establish youth educational programs at Silver Creek that inspire the next generation of environmental advocates. The new programming will be developed with community input, including from local educators, and will include on-site educational activities for field trips, family-focused events, self-guided tours and summer internships. Through these opportunities, TNC envisions Silver Creek as a place where students, educators and volunteers will cultivate the values that lead to deep personal commitments to conservation.
Another key element of the Silver Creek Enhancement Plan is aquatic and riparian ecosystem restoration, including work on two Silver Creek tributaries within the Preserve. Restoration of these high-priority, ecologically significant stream reaches are the next step in a watershed-wide, community-based restoration effort. Through active collaboration with partners and local stakeholders, TNC’s goal is to revitalize Silver Creek’s diverse, spring-fed ecosystem. This will be accomplished through a combination of several actions, including: stream channel reconfigurations to restore hydrologic processes and enhance aquatic habitat; water supply conservation and active aquifer recharge projects to sustain adequate streamflow and improve water quality; and enhancement of riparian buffers through expansion and planting of diverse native vegetation. These actions will improve the resiliency of this aquatic ecosystem and its wild trout fishery, while also demonstrating the value of science-based restoration techniques and community-based solutions.
“Community has been at the heart of Silver Creek Preserve ever since the local community banded together to conserve it in 1976,” says Preserve Manager Lou Lunte. “In the decades since, people from all over the world have been able to experience its spectacular beauty and pristine waters. We are excited to create a welcoming space for visitors and restore critical natural habitat so that Silver Creek remains a thriving place that inspires, educates and serves our community.”
For more information on the project as it develops, regular updates will be available at nature.org/silvercreek.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.