There was an aftershock felt in Boise early last week, somewhere in the 4–5 range on the Richter Scale. Alice Dieter passed away at home on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Alice was a Force of Nature.
For 15 years (1964–1979), Alice served on the Boise city parks board when parks superintendent Gordon Bowen was shaping a caretaker agency into a park system. Among her many accomplishments, Alice worked tirelessly for more than a decade to help make the Boise Greenbelt a reality.
Alice also was instrumental in saving the Fort Boise Military Reserve from development. When she and her husband, Les, moved to Boise in 1955, they built their first home in Aldape Heights. About the same time the city acquired the Military Reserve from the feds. In the early ’70s, she and neighbors, including Bill Dunlop, then US Interior solicitor for Idaho, became concerned. They got wind that developers were sizing up the reserve for residential development.
With Alice on the Parks board, they worked to have the federal land patent reissued with a master plan and firm non-development directives. The idea was that any activities, including recreational uses, would be allowed strictly in ways that do not compromise the natural state of the area.
At the time, the Fort Boise Military Reserve was the only reserve in the park system. At a staff suggestion, Alice worked to establish a clear distinction between parks and open-space reserves. She led the commission in adopting the following definition: Properties that we will retain in their ecologically natural state will be called “reserves.”
When I visited with her a couple of years ago, she said one of her greatest regrets was that she did not press to establish separate parks and recreation boards. She foresaw the danger that the parks and recreation commission would be dominated by recreational interests and lose sight of the passive values of parks and open space.
In 1986, I moved to Aldape Heights adjacent to the Military Reserve. A few days after we got settled in, Alice came calling, I assumed to welcome us to the neighborhood. I invited her in. Alice could be direct; she got right down to business.
“Gary, you and I are going to start the Friends of Military Reserve.” She paused just long enough for me to understand that this was a direction, not a suggestion. “When the North End and the East End begin limiting access to foothills development, access through Military Reserve is not going to be an option,” she explained. Thus, Friends of Military Reserve were organized in the summer of 1986 with Alice Dieter as chair.
Alice was right about Mountain Cove Rd: There were repeated attempts over the years to “upgrade” Mountain Cove Rd. in violation of the reserve master plan, which specified that “Parking lots and upgraded roads including the three main roads will have a gravel surface.” In 1988, likely responding to pressure from a few large property owners, the city quietly got the BLM to sign off on a plan amendment allowing “the granting a right-of-way to the Ada County Highway District for the Mountain Cove Road and authorizes paving of the road.” Both the Simplot and Hawkins families had foothills properties above the reserve. The Hawkins land is now part of the reserve thanks to the first Foothills Open-Space Levy, which Alice supported.
At one point, ACHD actually began preparing Mountain Cove Road for paving. Friends of Military Reserve requested a public hearing, which was held Oct. 30, 1990, when paving the road was overwhelmingly opposed. Yet, a year later, the Ada Planning Association proposed a Mountain Cove Parkway through the reserve. Each time the proposal to pave the road comes up, it has successfully been thwarted. My guess is that, like the proposal for a cross-foothills thoroughfare, it will continue to crop up from time to time unless a clear prohibition laid out in the Reserves Master Plan puts that genie back in the bottle. Alice would like that.