MCCALL, Idaho — Alec Williams grew up playing on the land involved in a proposed land swap involving land around Payette Lake and timberland in northern Idaho. Now, through the Preserve McCall plan, he wants to protect public access and preserve the land which is currently endowment land around Payette Lake.
"Our plan is very simple. It's to use solving the severe housing shortage here to pay for creating the largest state park in Idaho history. It'll grow Ponderosa State Park from 1,500 acres to 19,000 acres after the exchange and protect people's access to this way better as a state park than that access is protected as endowment lands," Williams said.
As we've reported, this proposal involves endowment land which is land given to Idaho when it became a state. The Department of Lands manages it to make money for public schools and other beneficiaries.
So, while much of the endowment land near Payette Lake is used for public recreation, it's not actually public land right now.
Williams' plan would change that and create affordable housing on the areas with black lines on this map which shows the Preserve McCall proposal.
"There are ways you can plan these types of communities over time that protect people's ability to access, recreate, keeping homes away from trails. So people can both live here and play here in the same area," he said.
But not all McCall locals are on board with this plan. A group called United Payette formed in opposition.
Lea Albright, a member of United Payette said it all started for her after getting a flyer in the mail from Trident Holdings LLC, the investment group behind Preserve McCall.
"They were trying to really promote this Preserve McCall. It didn't seem right, so I started looking into it. I couldn't find any solid answers or truth and quickly came to the resolution that they were more of an investment opportunist than someone that wanted to preserve--truly preserve the land and the watershed and the way of life in McCall," she said.
The group is now coming up with an alternative plan to pitch to the Department of Lands.
"Our goal by September: some solutions for the land board that would not involve selling to an investor or putting houses or large development on the endowment lands around the Payette water," Albright said.
She said they want to make sure the land is preserved and protected from privatization.
Williams says he also wants to preserve the land and protect access. Here's one example of the environmental protection aspects of his proposal:
"You actually manage the forest in such a way to reduce fire risk but also reduce the density of water hog white fir trees and replant native ponderosa's that flushes more fresh groundwater down through the lake and helps improve the water quality as well," Williams said.
You can view the full Preserve McCall proposal by clicking here. The Department of Lands is still evaluating the Preserve McCall proposal before offering its recommendation to the land board for its final decision.