Pathway of Dreams


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Path of Dreams, by David Proctor. April 2016. 186 pages. Softbound.
ISBN 978-0-945648-34-5
Price $16.95.


A Pathway of Dreams: Building the Boise Greenbelt is the story – with all its complications and controversies – of the construction of one of the great municipal assets in the United States, the greenbelt park area along the Boise River extending many miles directly through the center of Idaho’s largest metropolitan area.

From the introduction by Boise Mayor David Bieter:

Looking back on it now, I think there’s a good case to be made that the Greenbelt saved Boise.

Saved our river from over-development and degradation, certainly. But also saved our city as a whole – from mediocrity and regret.

To understand why, we need to look back at the Boise River as it was in the mid-20th century, before the Greenbelt, before the Clean Water Act, and before the widespread realization that a healthy environment and abundant recreation opportunities could be the cornerstones of a livable, prosperous community.

Of course, the Boise River had always been important to the city and to the entire valley. As every Boise grade-schooler knows, the lush stands of willows and cottonwoods lining the river’s banks, such a welcome sight to the desert-weary French trappers who came upon them in the early 1800s, are what gave this place its name.

In the century that followed, dams tamed the river’s flood-prone fury; canals made the arid valley bloom. The town that Clarence Darrow would describe as “a bright green gem in a setting of blue” was made that way by the revitalizing snowmelt that coursed down from the Rocky Mountain foothills each spring. But by the early 1900s, the Boise River seemed destined to follow the fate of so many of the world’s urban streams: as a dead, ugly open sewer, where the effluent and detritus of modern industry was discharged without much consideration of the consequences.

As David Proctor details in this outstanding history of the Greenbelt, the Boise River was for decades viewed mostly as a convenient waste-disposal system or as a barrier (not entirely unwelcome) between the northern and southern parts of the city.

Still, the river was beloved by many. I’m convinced that I am a native Boisean largely due to the river: My Dad used to say, only a bit tongue-in-cheek, that when it came time for him and his new wife to settle down and start a family, my mother explained it very simply to him. “We can live anywhere in the country,” she said, “as long as you can see the Boise River from there.”

By the 1960s and 1970s, the Boise River was defining but not yet iconic. It took some visionary leaders, some fortunate circumstances, and a whole lot of hard work to create the 25-mile-long park that today protects the Boise River’s banks from development while making it accessible to tens of thousands of residents and visitors alike – walkers, runners, and cyclists, who descend on the Greenbelt in all but the most inclement weather. Ours is now one of the cleanest urban rivers in the nation, a popular fly-fishing stream literally steps away from downtown as well as the most heavily used recreational river in the state, thanks to our popular summer float season.

The Boise River, along with our Foothills and its extensive trail system, the Bogus Basin ski area, and countless other outdoor activities within a short drive, have made Boise a mecca for people who want a healthy, inspiring place to do business and raise a family. That, in turn, has helped our city to prosper even in difficult times. It has helped us to avoid some of the difficulties that other American cities have faced as they attempt to compete in the new global economy. It has spared us from the regret of not having preserved and enhanced the very qualities that attracted people to this wonderful place decades and centuries ago.

The important thing, we’ve learned, is to create a livable city. From that, good things flow, like a life-giving spring runoff.

And we owe it all to the Greenbelt, and to the many minds and hands that built it. David Proctor is here to tell the story. It is a great one, befitting a great city, and the many of us who love it.


Path of Dreams

Also available on

Path of Dreams, by David Proctor (April 2016). $16.95. ISBN 978-0-945648-30-7