Bayview residents reconnect to Farragut

Hagadone News Network | September 9, 2020 1:00 AM

After four months of outcry from residents and businesses, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation reopened Bayview's exit cutting from Farragut State Park.

At the beginning of Idaho's state-mandated COVID quarantine, Farragut reported an overwhelming influx of visitors. With only a handful of permanent and seasonal staff and volunteers, the substantial increase of park users catalyzed the Parks' decision to close the Locust Grove entrance on April 23.

"Many of these users are new to the area and do not understand what park opportunities are available and the need to adhere to rules and regulations," Assistant Park Manager Erin McKendree said in a report. "Consequently, the park consolidated entrances at the North and South Road intersection with Highway 54, closing the Locust Grove entrance."

According to White, park leadership first developed the plan of merging Farragut Park's entryways in 2002 and formalized the project in 2007.

Despite many unhappy Bayview residents feeling the closure had blindsided them, White said several public meetings about the closure, information published regularly in the Bayview Bylines, and informational notices were displayed throughout the park since 2008.

After this year's exit closure, Bayview resident Sheryl Puckett took to the Bayview community for support on starting an online petition to convince the park of reopening the Locust Grove entrance. Since premiering in late June, the petition received over 1,100 signatures with comments addressing the closure's unnecessary nature and increased travel time added for residents and visitors.

Puckett contended that Bayview businesses relying on summer park visitors were suffering from the unusable entrance.

"They dropped this out of nowhere, in the middle of a crisis. No businesses were contacted, no individuals were contacted, no town organizations were contacted, no one's opinion was solicited," Puckett said in her speech against the closure. "Closing the east gate blocks visitors from coming to Bayview and is a horror ship on an already difficult time."

During a meeting on August 12, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation voted to reopen the gate after being moved by public testimony.

"After discussing it with the general public and the department, we decided it would be in the community's best interest to reopen the gate," said David White, the regional director of Parks and Recreation. "It all comes back to the public sharing their side, and we didn't fully understand the impact of how it affects Bayview residents coming in and visitors going out."

In the coming years, the park plans to move the main entry point next to the Farragut Naval Training Station and World War II Brig Museum.

"Our whole point was to consolidate the Brig Museum entrance, which would provide better access to Bayview," White said. "In the meantime, we will work with them to find options that work for everyone."

Will Stafford, president of the Bayview Chamber of Commerce, said the city is excited to have their gate back to normal.

"It was an incredibly positive and encouraging development on something that has seriously impacted the community," Strafford said. "With the gate, COVID, and the cancellation of Bayview Daze, our local small businesses have been seriously affected. It's great to have business and traffic come through and discover our town."

The tourist town that draws most of its annual income from out of state, the Canadian border, and Farragut travelers has been struggling because of COVID restrictions, Stafford said.

"Everyone in Bayview favors the gate staying open. This is the first time in 40 years that it's been closed," Stafford said. "By keeping the gate open, we can continue to visit the park, and anyone visiting the park can come down and visit us."