STORIES

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From poetry, prose, and painting to music, radio, and photography, this page is dedicated to showcasing the art inspired by the Dry Creek Valley.

We hope that by sharing our stories - our individual and collective connections to this landscape - we will create a lasting testament to this incredible place.

A story can be anything - from a recipe to a sketch to a moment. If you would like to share your own story, email us at info@savedrycreek.org.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
— Rachel Carson

Saving Dry Creek

By Christina Stucker-Gassi

Maybe there is a place you love and return to over and over again. A favorite vista, perhaps, or a path along the river you live near. We see a place through a subjective lens, our impressions colored by our own lives, nuanced and unique. While these impressions are our own, they can be shared, and that sharing is a powerful tool for conservation. That’s what I learned when I sat down at Stephanie Rael’s dining room table in the North End of Boise, Idaho to talk about why she wants to save the Dry Creek Valley.

Situated a short drive north of Boise, in the fastest growing county in Idaho, lies the Dry Creek Valley. In this valley, there are two organic farms that provide fresh produce to the local co-op, farmers market, and many restaurants. Stephanie has worked as a farmhand at one of those farms, Peaceful Belly Farm, for the last four seasons. She does not want to see that land paved over to make way for houses, but that may be the fate of the Dry Creek Valley.

In February 2017, the Board of County Commissioners approved a development plan by Boise Hunter Homes for 1,815 residential units and 85,000 square feet of commercial space on 1,414 acres in the Dry Creek Valley. Not only does this development threaten some of the most fertile farmland in Idaho, with over six feet of topsoil found in some places, there is a list of other reservations the community has about it. Many worry the development plan does not adequately address impacts on wildlife, wastewater management, water rights, and infrastructure needs, such as roads, schools, and other publicly-funded amenities.

A different development plan for the same property was submitted in 2006 and was approved in 2010, but building stalled due to the Great Recession. Since then, the land has changed hands. The new developer, Boise Hunter Homes, submitted their plan in the summer of 2016. Opponents argued this new plan was not right for the community and that it did not adhere to Ada County’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan, which identified preservation of open space, critical wildlife habitat, and prime farmland as top priorities. However, despite public outcry, the Board of County Commissioners approved the development.

A request for reconsideration was made by a group of concerned citizens, including Stephanie. On a cold morning in March 2017, the Board of County Commissioners emerged from their chambers to inform a nervous crowd that they denied their request. With the help of members of the community, Stephanie formed a nonprofit called the Dry Creek Valley Coalition. One of the goals of this nonprofit is to address the issue through a referendum campaign. If successful, a referendum would bring the issue to a vote and, at a special election, citizens could choose to reject the Board of County Commissioners’ approval of the development. When the Dry Creek Valley Coalition began the referendum process, the County Clerk refused to file their initial petition. With the help of a local attorney, Stephanie sued the County Clerk for the right to pursue the referendum. Boise Hunter Homes and the Board of County Commissioners both intervened in the case in favor of allowing the development to continue unchallenged.

There are no bad days as long as your intentions are pure. Working hard as a farmhand in the Dry Creek Valley taught Stephanie that. Her work ethic is an invaluable resource, much like the Dry Creek Valley is an invaluable habitat for large game, migration birds, and a genetically-pure population of Redband Trout. Stephanie will be the first to tell you she’s not anti-development, she just believes responsible, smart development is possible.

A feeling of purpose came over me as we discussed why she became the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the developer, Boise Hunter Homes, the County Clerk, and the Board of County Commissioners. Maybe the sense of purpose was brought on by the seasonal pumpkin ale we were sipping, or maybe it originated from my interest in farmland preservation, a passion I acquired after realizing my grandparents’ farm that they sold as their retirement could have been mine. Our society has somehow gotten away with undervaluing the land we depend on for survival. Now, more than ever, community involvement in the processes that govern development decisions, for places like the Dry Creek Valley and other at-risk areas in the West, is vital to the continuation of our local democracy and our shared sense of place. For those of us with a connection to this landscape – be it farmland, open space, or that special place we return to over and over again – our purpose becomes finding solutions to this systemic injustice and striving to save the land we value, respect, and love.

 

Christina Stucker-Gassi is an activist living in Boise, Idaho where she works on a variety of social and food justice issues, from farmland preservation to citizens' rights.


Why Dry Creek Matters to Boise

By Sonya Feibert

When the land you love is threatened, you unite to protect it. What other choice is there? Considering that question against the current threat of a housing development in the Dry Creek Valley, the answer is less clear than you want it to be.

As we wait for the next step in Dry Creek’s fate -- an answer to the court hearing held on October 20 -- there’s plenty to learn about this valley’s place in our history.

When I said I would write about Dry Creek, I was still unclear about where, and what, it was. Several friends had told me to check out the hike, but it was still sitting in my log of unfulfilled outdoor adventures. When I saw a watercolor poster in Neurolux and realized it wasn’t advertising a band called “Save Dry Creek,” I wanted to find out more. What was important about Dry Creek? Why did it need to be saved?

Embarking on a journey to learn more led me to Jay Karamales. In addition to being a resident of the area and serving as president of the Dry Creek Historical Society, Jay knows almost everything there is to know about the Dry Creek Valley. Talking with Jay about Dry Creek is what I imagine it’s like to talk with Michael Pollan about food.

In early September, on what felt like the first day of fall, I sat down to talk with Jay in the main room of the Schick-Ostolasa Farmstead, a prominent piece of Dry Creek’s story.

Here’s what I learned.

Modern history of the Dry Creek Valley starts in 1862. That was the summer P. L. Schick stumbled upon the valley as he made his way from Oregon to Boise by way of Horseshoe Bend, accompanied by his business partner and a team of oxen.

When a few oxen wandered off, Schick tracked them into the Dry Creek Valley. If you’ve hiked or driven over this area in late summer, you can imagine what caught Schick’s attention. Emerging through the dry, brown, high desert land is a lush green valley. It must have appeared like a mirage in an old Western movie.

While people had traveled along the Oregon Trail, no one had yet settled in the Boise area. Very few had even seen the Dry Creek Valley. This fertile, unpopulated land presented Schick with the opportunity to become the first farmer in the Dry Creek Valley. What made this valley prime for agriculture? 66 inches of rich topsoil, still in place today, that dwarfs Ada County’s average six.

From the good fortune of stray oxen, Schick went on to marry, have a child, and build a home on the farm, eventually attracting a community here. The farm is now known as the Schick-Ostolasa Farmstead—the same place Jay and I sit-- in the same valley at risk of development.

Schick made improvements to the farmstead and continued to work the land until 1902, when he died from injuries suffered in a fire (a strange tale that I won’t spend time on here—look to the Dry Creek Historical Society for the full story). Schick’s daughter and her husband cared for the farmstead until 1927, when they sold it to Frank Parsons.

Parsons had ranches and farms all over the valley, and he hired a Basque family by the name of Ostolasa to care for the farmstead. Enter the Ostolasa phase of the house.

Costan Ostolasa and his family continued to live and work on the ranch under various ownership. Much of what we now know about the property is thanks to what the Ostolasa family recorded. Robert, the great nephew of Costan, drew the exact position of objects and structures in the barnyard, and we’ve heard stories that Jaialdi started right here on the ranch.

In the 1970s, a real estate consortium bought most of the land of the Dry Creek Valley. One of the men in business was Jim Grossman, who spent a lot of time mountain biking through the area before formal trails were developed. Grossman saw a vision for a community in the valley, and in the late 1990s started construction of Hidden Springs.

The Ostolasa’s were still living on and working the much-reduced ranchland even as the development began to encroach on them. By this time, the early residents of Hidden Springs had gotten to know the Ostolasa’s and learned about the historical and cultural significance of the farmstead. This is how the Dry Creek Historical Society (DCHS) was formed.

Before the house could be demolished in development, DCHS brokered a deal with Ada County. The county would buy the two-acre parcel from the developer. In return, the developer would lease it to the Dry Creek Historical Society for a dollar a year. This is the deal that currently protects the farmhouse. As a nonprofit, the Society’s mission is to maintain the house and the grounds as a museum. That brings us to today.

In the years since then, the farmhouse was restored, largely thanks to the residents of Hidden Springs and the DCHS. The Society works to record stories like Schick’s so that more people can understand the importance of preserving this area.

If you still have any question about its significance to our state, consider this: During the Sesquicentennial, when each county in Idaho got to pick one installation to represent them, Ada County chose the Schick-Ostolasa farmstead to be the County Gem. That’s how much they—or at least someone—recognized its importance.

I’ll leave you with this thought from Jay:

Here’s the fascinating thing to me: This valley is still so obscure to the vast number of Boiseans who live just on the other side of the hills, and yet it was so instrumental in the early history of Boise. The first agriculture to provide a source of food, grain, and meat came from this valley. It has vast historical significance, and yet most people can’t see beyond the potential for developing it.

I can certainly understand. Hidden Springs was, to date, the major changer of the valley. I didn’t know about any of its history until I moved here from the East Coast. Now, I want to try preserve what’s left.

That’s why it’s up to us who are here, for those of us who do understand the historical significance to do something before it gets too far. It’s crucial to get that message out to Boise, Ada County, to all of Idaho. It’s incumbent upon us to let them know what stands to be lost here. Once the building starts, it’s too late.

Join me in sharing the significance of Dry Creek Valley and why it’s so important to preserve for future generations.


Sonya is a writer living in Boise who loves strong coffee and hikes in the foothills.


 
 Handmade flag by  Katrina Schiermeier

Handmade flag by Katrina Schiermeier

 
 Artwork by  Seth Emrynt.  Seth designed our posters, buttons, and stickers. Check out more of his art  here.

Artwork by Seth Emrynt. Seth designed our posters, buttons, and stickers. Check out more of his art here.

 

DRY CREEK VALLEY

Deep spry fatty soil
Birthed in this valley’s time between horses
When lands across the seas worked in their New Stone Age
We now harvest peaceful kale and chard

Black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia)
Jerusalem cricket
Yellow rabbitbrush
Powdery sage

Spotted elk calf’s growing marrow
Insulated by blood and the herd

Ghosts of the tribes
Still ride their new horses here
Painted light yellow and dark red

Sunny golden energy blankets the valley
Seeping out of open hearts
What would the guardian of the foothills speak today?

Night frost melts
Warming drops sit on the grasses
Each have their own big rainbow inside
Amber, bright bug green, violet, shiny red, white

Trail runners, old and new
Feel this air travel their lungs
Seamans Gulch Trail
This land is our friend

 _______________________________________

Seann Sweeney is a writer, program manager and sustainavore. Read more of Seann's work here.

 
 Stickers and buttons designed by  Seth Emrynt.  Check out more of his art  here.

Stickers and buttons designed by Seth Emrynt. Check out more of his art here.

 Photo of elk in the Dry Creek Valley by  Justin Hull.  

Photo of elk in the Dry Creek Valley by Justin Hull. 

 
 
 Artwork by  Clare Casey.  Clare designed our posters, t-shirts, and tote bags. Check out more of her art  here.

Artwork by Clare Casey. Clare designed our posters, t-shirts, and tote bags. Check out more of her art here.

 
 
 Handmade bicycle tube earrings in the shape of Idaho by  Katrina Schiermeier

Handmade bicycle tube earrings in the shape of Idaho by Katrina Schiermeier