State closes popular Steamboat Gulch sled hill

Posted at 12:23 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 14:23:07-05

IDAHO CITY, Idaho — The popular Steamboat Gulch sled hill in Idaho City is without an operator this winter, so officials with the Idaho Department of Lands say they have closed the area for safety reasons and to protect restoration efforts.

In previous years, the sled hill was operated by the Mores Creek Recreational Foundation, through a permit from the Idaho Department of Lands. “However, the foundation ran out of funding last year, and there isn’t currently a permit holder to operate and fund the sled hill this year,” said IDL spokesperson Robbie Johnson.

“Last year, the sled hill was kept open despite the lack of an operator. Without oversight, the area was damaged by people driving vehicles on the hill, leaving garbage, and shooting (at) trees,” Johnson added.

Over the past few years, IDL has worked with multiple partners to clean up and rehabilitate the hill, remove ruts, and seed the area. Officials say these efforts will help maintain the hill for potential future sledding opportunities and recreation.

“But this year, the sled hill is completely closed to protect those restoration efforts, as well as for safety. A fence and gate block off the area, since here is a risk of people sledding and hitting the posts. The fence was needed to keep riders and drivers off of the hill and prevent additional damage,” Johnson explained.

The sled hill is on endowment land owned by the public school beneficiary, which means the land and its uses are not taxpayer funded; as such, it makes it different than public lands like those operated by the U.S. Forest Service.

While IDL provides recreational opportunities when possible, it’s constitutional mandate is to manage the land in such a way as to secure the maximum long-term financial return to the beneficiary. Money to repair damaged land comes from funds that should be supporting K-12 education.

“While the closed hill is a disappointment, it is not appropriate for IDL to take money out of the public school endowment fund to operate the sled hill,” Johnson said.

If you are interested in reopening the hill -- and be responsible for sledding, oversight, costs of operation, and damage control -– you are urged to contact the Idaho Department of Lands to acquire the necessary permit.

(photo courtesy: Idaho Dept. of Lands)