Underwriting provided by:
Anne Hausrath & Judy Ouderkirk, Wetlands Coalition founders
Judy: The story of Hulls Gulch in the beginning is almost romantic. Anne and I used to walk this trail every morning. She would get me up at 5:30 in the morning and off we would go. And one morning when we came down we noticed there was a large sign - well, it was on the road but near the ponds - and it said they were going to build 303, or something like that, future homes in this area.
And we went home and then Anne looked in the newspaper, saw the — what would you call that?
Anne: Legal notice.
Judy: Oh, the legal notice. She went right to Planning and Zoning, found out all the information. When I got home from work that night there was a large manila envelope on my doorstep that said "READ THIS NOW." I read it and the rest is history. That was the beginning.
Anne: I don't think either of us had ever been to City Hall before. I didn't even know where P and Z was. We picked up the packet and we basically went to the North End Neighborhood Association. They felt because of an agreement from 1977 that their hands were tied, so Judy and I said, "Well, somebody's got to do something." We thought if we call ourselves a coalition, other people would join us. So we called ourselves the Wetlands Coalition.
JCH: So what happens next?
Judy: We called a meeting. We had a few of the interested parties in the North End. I believe there were about six or eight people at that first meeting. We sat on my living room rug and put a plan into place. And I always say Anne was the idea person because she had so many ideas on what we should do and how we should do it. It was just up to the rest of us to put her ideas into action.
Anne: And I think really, part of it was that Judy and I were so naïve that we didn't know how hard this would be. We just thought well, of course, this is too wonderful not to have permanent public preservation. So we just took one step at a time because many more serious environmentalists and neighborhood activists said we couldn't fight city hall and we didn't know any better.
Judy: But people that came forth with expertise of how we should proceed and what we might do, that's what gave us the impetus to keep moving, keep going. Those meetings started having more people. In fact, one time we had to meet at Fort Boise because so many people wanted to come to our meetings.
Anne: Yeah, we had lawyers and we had biologists and all kinds of people. The people who really could build a case for why this should be publicly preserved all came forward. This was not, it's not really about Judy and me. We were the catalysts that sort of got this whole thing started but it was a huge, very hopeful community effort. The yard signs, we had yard signs that said "Save Hulls Gulch" and they sprouted up all over.
Anne: Basically, the first development proposal was actually for a smaller number of houses. It was a phase and it was maybe 40 houses right above the ponds down at Camel's Back. The developer's proposal was to run a drag line, remove all vegetation and de-water the area to a depth of 5 feet. And we took that - Judy went to the Co-op which was on Hill Road, I went to the M & W where the Co-op is now and we just said, "Do you think this is a good idea?" And we got hundreds of signatures opposing the plan. The next Planning and Zoning hearing was cancelled and we thought, "Good!"
Judy: "We're done."
Anne: "We're done." But we found out there was a much bigger plan. There were signs of development occurring here even though it was theoretically on hold. So we thought we needed a group that would be protectors of the Gulch and one woman came up with the idea, Hulls Angels. And so we had a group of ninth graders who called themselves Hulls Angels. They had T-shirts and they would go out and they gathered over 500 hand-written impromptu letters about the Foothills and the value to them. And that was part of our case for protecting the area.
JCH: What was the initial reaction when you first went before Planning and Zoning?
Anne: Not very receptive. It took many years and at that time the City Hall meeting space was twice as big and the capacity was over 400. We would pack it time after time and this was before the Internet, so we were dropping flyers on people's doorsteps to get turnout.
In the beginning,I think they didn't take us seriously. It wasn't until we started packing P and Z that they began to see there was a big movement behind this. And once the movement got going, they took us more seriously and other things began to happen.
Joan: Who got involved in the "Save Hulls Gulch" effort?
Judy: We figure we had at least 2,500 volunteers over the total of five years and also groups like the Idaho Conservation League.
Anne: The North End Neighborhood Association.
Judy: And the city of Boise. Basically over the period of time there were several stages. There was a land trade. The East End Neighborhood Association gave up almost 7 acres of land in Warm Springs Park in order to get 99 acres here in Hulls Gulch, so that was a huge benefit from them.
We had Mayor Dirk Kempthorne, we had Congressman Stallings, he got us land and water. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of land/water conservation funds. We had school groups, Bible studies groups and lots of individuals helping.
JCH: Tell me about the kids.
Judy: The children, they participated in so many of our activities. They turned out for parades. They turned out for walks in the Foothills. But my favorite stories were the times that I went to talk to children in the classrooms. Anne had made these wonderful little containers that said "Save Hulls Gulch" and I would go and speak, and then at the end they would present me with one of her containers full of their pennies.
JCH: Was it just that the City Council was so pro-development?
Anne: I think that is part of it. Again and again, we would hear if you really want to save this then you're going to have to pay for it and so we thought, "Okay, how can we pay for it?" That's where the land trade, the land and water conservation funds came into it.
We decided if we couldn't win city council we'd better change some of the council positions and nobody else, seriously, nobody else, was willing to run so I decided I was going to give it a try.
Judy: Anne did it, right. Can you believe that? What a story! So Anne goes to City Council, and in all the talks we had in Boise Water and all the exchanges of land, then they finally said you have to pay $350,000 for the last little piece of land. And then that takes us to the end of 1992.
Anne: Neither of us had any experience whatsoever in fundraising.
Judy: And so I asked everyone, "Would you do it?" And no one really said yes. So it was at that point I said, "Alright, I'll do it." I remember I was told I had to write a fundraising plan. I'd never written a fundraising plan. So I had down that we would have bake sales. I can't remember all I said in it but it was probably a very naïve fundraising plan.
But as Anne said we got all kinds of contributions. We had some very large contributions from individuals and we had tiny contributions. The pennies, we had children's allowances. We had little old ladies who said, "We could give $5 a month and I bet we could get some of our neighbors to do this." And so we'd get like $20 every month.
JCH: When did you buy the last piece of land?
Judy: We bought the last piece in November of 1993. The developer, who basically was opposed to us along the way, eventually after four years became our ally and gave us an opportunity to buy the last 50 acres. And we were in the bottom of the US Bank building at that point and we handed a big check to Wayne Booe and that was it.
JCH: So now when you walk the Hulls Gulch area, what do you think?
Anne: I still am amazed. To me, it is a testament of what ordinary people can do if they come together and really want something, and also are very lucky. There was a huge amount of luck involved and a huge effort by an extraordinary number of people.
Judy: In 2002, we put up a rock monument in Hulls Gulch next to the ponds to honor the people who spent so much time, energy and money and this is just a little bit of the talk that I gave that day to thank them:
"This lower Hulls Gulch Reserve is a commemoration to the hundreds who worked to save it. I wish I could say the names of all those involved:
This list is endless. It took hundreds of hands, minds and bodies, and along with all the work, time and energy came money. And in the end we all saved Hulls Gulch.
JCH: Must have been a thrill.
Judy: It is. It is a thrill. It's still a thrill.