The Stanley-to-Redfish recreational trail has been years in the making. Taxpayers paid more than a half-million dollars to previous owners for access to the land, now a 4.5-mile easement across private property.
"It is a hot button issue," said Stanley Mayor Steve Botti. "People have been waiting 15 years for this trail to actually happen."
Boise residents David Boren and Lynn Arnone bought the private property the trail splits in 2016, after the easement had been purchased by the U.S. Forest Service. They have tried to stop the trail project with lawsuits and by offering to trade a different part of their land to move the trail closer to the highway.
"Most people up here don't think that makes much sense," Botti said. "The Forest Service laid out the trail alignment there and purchased that easement to make that happen, to get people away from the highway and off where they would have these stupendous panoramic views of the Sawtooth Range."
The morning of June 20, the opposition crescendoed to a different level. According to court documents, construction workers building the path just south of the Stanley Airport reported a low-flying helicopter made three aggressive passes near where they were working. The helicopter hovered between eight and 15 feet off the ground according to witnesses, and people in the helicopter made their intent known with an obscene gesture. Rotor wash from the helicopter's blades kicked up dust and debris.
Mayor Botti said most folks there were outraged by the incident, and characterized the response of people in the community as disbelief.
He described his conversations with the community: "Why would they do such a thing? And what were they trying to accomplish? Didn't they realize that they were endangering people flying that close to the ground and that close to the workers? That's been pretty much the reaction that I heard from people here.”
The court filing shows the helicopter is owned by the landowner’s brother, Michael Boren. The construction workers reported the incident to the local sheriff, and the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a request for temporary restraining order against the landowners and Michael Boren, in addition to preparing to file claims of trespass and nuisance.
David Boren and Arnone wrote in a court reply that they were not connected to Michael Boren's helicopter flight on June 20.
Monday, Judge Candy Dale denied the government's request for a restraining order, writing that it wasn’t fully warranted and the district court did not yet have jurisdiction over Michael Boren and his company, Obsidian Aviation. Jurisdiction is pending the government's decision to officially amend the current lawsuit to include Michael Boren and Obsidian.
The landowner’s most recent lawsuit against the trail project remains ongoing. They have said the Forest Service did an inadequate job determining the environmental impacts of the trail project. On June 19, Judge Dale denied their requests for live witness testimony. The next scheduled court date is July 15.
Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.
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