My hometown had “The Green,” a large park-like area in the center of town, close to the library and my grade school. It would have been a terrific place to hang out except that’s where my grandfather and his cronies hung out, discussing town politics and generally keeping an eye on things.
So, my friends and I avoided “The Green” because there were too many watchful eyes. Still, this was as close as I got to hearing the term “greenbelt” for many years.
The term is now commonly used; it seems that every city and town has one but, do you know what a greenbelt actually is? In part, it depends on who you’re talking to. A greenbelt can be defined as a policy and zone designation employed in land use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped or agricultural land adjacent to urban areas. It can also refer to a belt of parkways, parks, or farmlands that encircle a community. In Texas, a greenbelt is often considered to be a vacant patch of forested land adjacent to a home.
A greenbelt policy was introduced in England to contain urban sprawl following huge post-World War II housing developments. The first known use of the term “greenbelt” occurred in 1949, so the concept has been around for a while.
Although greenbelts are popular policy in the U.S. and other parts of the world, they are not cost-free. Critics argue greenbelts reduce the amount of available developable land, resulting in fewer homes being built and higher home prices. Critics also argue that greenbelts require money for upkeep and may result in disturbance to adjacent homeowners because of noise, litter, and a decreasing sense of privacy.
So, what does all of this have to do with Bingham County? Regardless of concerns, benefits seem to clearly outweigh negatives given the many communities in Idaho and elsewhere that boast of their greenbelts. This view is reinforced every time I drive by the greenbelt in Blackfoot or any other Idaho town. People clearly enjoy walking and biking on their greenbelt — a great way to relax and get some exercise.
Bingham County is largely rural but boasts several greenbelts. Starting in the north, Shelley has a greenbelt that extends approximately 2 miles from Curt Brinkman Park out to North Bingham County Park (with campsites, a historical park, and other amenities). The trail consists of a paved sidewalk that follows the Snake River for most of the greenbelt’s length. Conveniently spaced benches offer a place to rest and just watch the river flow by. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, and rollerblading enthusiasts enjoy this path.
The greenbelt at Firth is a paved trail between Firth Bridge and Firth Park, paralleling the Snake River for most of its length (about 2 miles, round trip). The park provides camping sites, picnic tables, and benches for those wishing to relax and spend time appreciating the quiet of this little community.
The Blackfoot greenbelt is a paved, 9.6-mile (round trip trail) route connecting the city of Blackfoot to public parks, the Snake River, and other recreational sites. Jensen Grove serves as a great starting point for the greenbelt with plenty of parking and a variety of public amenities. From here, the greenbelt spurs to Airport Park and ball fields, circles Jensen’s Lake and extends northeast along the golf course. Beyond the golf course, the Blackfoot greenbelt crosses the Snake River along Interstate 15 then follows the river, all the way to the Rose Pond area where the trail makes a terminal loop. The existing trail provides opportunities for bicycling, jogging, walking, and rollerblading.
Anybody up for a nice walk? I know some great spots.
Jack Connelly has lived in Bingham County for the last 42 years. He is an avid outdoorsman and has hiked, camped, hunted, and fished over much of the U.S. as well as parts of Europe and Asia. Connelly worked as a biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for over 30 years. He now enjoys retirement with his wife Cheryl raising chickens and bird dogs at their home in Blackfoot.