JACKSON HOLE, WYO –Astoria Park Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land worked together to meet and complete the $500,000 match challenge offered by the Snake River Sporting Club. That accomplishment helped push the planned community park a big step closer to reality and take advantage of ‘doubled’ contributions from more than 150 unique donors during that six-week campaign.
Everyone pitched in to support fundraising toward the new Astoria Hot Springs Park including eateries Genevieve and Orsetto that donated $3 from every $33 tasting menu for much of December. To date, efforts realize a $6M campaign goal have reached the 93% mark thanks to donations from well over 500 different contributions, support from local businesses and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.
What it is
As of right now, Astoria Hot Springs Park is still in the planning stage but much has already been accomplished. For instance, the 100-acre riverfront property is securely in the hands of the Trust for Public Lands and guaranteed permanent protection from private development.
Since as far back as 2012, TPL has spent countless hours working with the public (more than 2,500 residents helped refine the vision for a future park) and local government (county commissioners rezoned the property as park land in 2015) to pave the way to get to a community park for all. TPL eventually purchased the property for $1.8M once assured it would be publicly accessible forever.
During fundraising, an evaluation was made to find an entity suitable to operate and maintain the park. State agencies, Jackson/Teton County Parks and Rec, and several other ideas were explored but, in the end, it was determined the park needed a new dedicated steward.
Astoria Park Conservancy was created and Paige Byron Curry named executive director in September 2018. The group will officially take over once Phase I of construction is complete.
What it is not
Astoria Hot Springs Park is completely separate from neighboring Snake River Sporting Club, other than a few connections. A three-party deal between the former property owners, TPL, and SRSC allowed for transfer of development and protection of park property. SRSC has also aided in fundraising, most notably by its generous $500k matching grant just completed.
What it was
In its heyday through the 70s and 80s, Astoria Mineral Springs was the place to be on a hot summer day. Until it closed to the public in 1999, the springs were a scenic, family-oriented RV and tent campground with mineral hot spring pools located on the banks of the Snake River about 15 minutes south of Jackson Hole
The site offered great swimming and camping for locals and summer visitors touring nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Developed in the early 1960s, the complex, including a large outdoor pool for children and adults and an adjacent triangular ‘kiddie pool’ was for many years the only local resource for children to learn to swim, and for families to enjoy pool time together.
A narrow building nearby contained eight small rooms with private soaking tubs, and nearby acreage served as the take-off and landing rendezvous for a local heli-skiing company.
The complex closed for good in 1999. By 2000, all buildings and pools were removed and access to the area was limited or entirely unavailable to the public. By 2001 the historic log “Johnny Counts Cabin” had been moved onto the site near the former pool complex.
What it will be
Astoria Hot Springs Park will be first and foremost a community park centered around the popular hot springs in that area. The springs will allow the facility to be open year-round. The park will remain a natural environmental and a place to put kids in touch with riparian habitat and unparalleled nature viewing.
A featured amenity will be a pool, of course. It was the large community swimming pool that many recalled fondly about the old Astoria, which closed in 1999.
Byron Curry said the Astoria Park Conservancy continues to do outreach in order to learn what it is people most want to see at the new park.
“In addition to the pools for soaking and swimming, there will be over five miles of hiking trails, and a pavilion area kiosko for reunions and other community gatherings,” Byron Curry said. “Down the road there is a potential for other park elements, too, and we will continue to do public outreach to understand what the community would like to see here.”
Jackson Hole Public Art was able to secure a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to spruce up the kiosk area with commissioned works from local artists.
Work will not begin until the full $6M is raised but Byron Curry said she expects that could happen very early in 2019 and the park could break ground as early as this spring.
Everything is in place to move quickly. Entitlements, approvals, zoning—all the cumbersome land development red tape is done and has been for a year. DHM Design—who have particular expertise in designing parks to function centered around hot springs features—has just completed construction drawings and renderings. A deal with local contractors Two Ocean Builders is nearly finalized.
Next on the to-do list
The finish line is within sight and that’s when a few generous donors traditionally step up and help close the gap. With funding secured, Byron Curry hopes she can make that phone call to get shovels in the ground just months from now. The Conservancy is also still looking for partnerships and other ways to share the park with schools, nonprofits and other groups.