What is it that makes Boise such a great place to live? According to many people it is the perfect mix it offers, a smooth blend of the outdoors and a not-too-big, not-too-small metropolitan city that keeps Boise on top ten lists across the internet, and in the mouths of people in the know. The newest I’m aware of is this study by the moving company SML which lists Boise as the number one best city to move to in 2014. “If you love… the great outdoors, you’re going to love Boise,” SML writes in addition to finding it within the top five for statistics on unemployment, median income, and home value growth, and number one in home affordability. It’s not just the proximity to “the outdoors” that people like about Boise, but that certainly doesn’t hurt our reputation.
Just one example of that mix of the urban and natural is an area in southeast Boise called the Barber Pool Conservation Area. The 700 acre nature refuge isn’t just close by, it is actually located fully within city limits, and provides residents with spectacular views and plenty of wildlife to observe. Complete with several different habitats—such as grasslands, wetlands, trees, and rivers—the conservation area is home to a variety of animals. Deer, beaver, coyotes, pheasant, hawks, and bald eagles can all be seen in this microcosm of Idaho wilderness. It is a place of interest for researchers of ecosystems and migratory birds from Boise State’s Intermountain Bird Observatory, as well as folks just out for a day-hike or to sit by the river. Barber Pool Conservation Area is home to some two hundred species, and has a unique ecosystem. There are trails and vantage points, but no roads and hunting is prohibited. The Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands lovingly refers to it as “The Anchor for wildlife and humanity at the top of our great metropolitan area.”
The owners and caretakers for the conservation area are a private nonprofit organization founded in Idaho in 1972, known as The Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands. Their mission is to “preserve and protect open space lands and unique natural, scenic settings for public benefit through various flexible conservation methods.” Many of the lands they are charged with preserving have been donated, including Barber Pool, which was donated in 1978 by Boise Cascade. The area gets its name from the original owners, Barber Lumber Company, who had a dam and mill pond on the property. The mill was dismantled and the pond drained in the 1930’s, leaving the area we see today—which, thanks to the work of conservationists, can be enjoyed by nature enthusiasts as well as researchers and biologists who study the wildlife.
The area is located within close vicinity to Lucky Peak Reservoir, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and Barber Park where you can rent tubes and raft through the city to a shuttle that will bring you back to your car. With so much to see and do within ten minutes, it’s easy to see why residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Barber Pool, for example Surprise Valley, love having the conservation area in their backyard. Surprise Valley has a lookout point run by the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, who has plans to turn it into a more extensive park in the future. As of now, the lookout has a viewing area and informational signs that educate viewers on what they can expect to see there. But many of the subdivision’s residents get to enjoy these unprecedented views from the comfort of their back yards, which overlook Barber Pool below with the foothills beyond that. With neighborhoods like this, Boise will likely stay on those top ten lists for quite a while.