Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Boise Cascade Mill - South 40 Acre Yard - Cascade

Site Background

The Boise Cascade Mill in Cascade, Idaho, employed up to 70 full-time workers. Closure of the mill in 2001 was an economic blow to this scenic west-central Idaho community nestled among mountains, Cascade Lake, and the Payette River. After the mill closed, Boise Cascade officials, Valley County officials, city of Cascade officials, DEQ, and members of the public met to discuss future plans for the 120-acre property once occupied by the mill. The site is bounded by the North Fork Payette River and Highway 55 and adjacent to county-owned property, including the Valley County Fairgrounds. Stakeholders determined that the property should be assessed and, if necessary, cleaned up to appropriate environmental standards prior to moving forward with redevelopment plans. DEQ's assistance was requested in assessing the environmental condition of the 40-acre log yard on the south side of the former mill. There was some concern that activities associated with storage and handling of logs prior to processing could have led to negative environmental impacts.

BoiseCascade Mill 1

Site Investigation Process

In October 2004, DEQ contracted with Maxim Technologies to conduct an environmental site assessment on the south log yard. Maxim collected soil samples in a 200-foot grid pattern across the 40-acre parcel. In total, 31 soil samples were collected and analyzed for potential contaminants, including heavy metals, petroleum products, wood-treating compounds, and other volatile organic compounds. No samples were collected from the wood debris on top of the soil as this debris was reclaimed and turned into soil amendment by Cloverdale Nursery. While some of the samples did contain measurable levels of contamination, the concentrations were considered low enough to be acceptable given certain site restrictions. The main restriction outlined by the Maxim report concerned shallow ground water. Maxim concluded that as long as shallow ground water was not used for drinking water, the site would not require an environmental cleanup. An environmental covenant was placed on the property on November 13, 2009.

In 2011, the Southern Valley County Recreation District requested assistance with Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments on a 4-acre parcel of the Cascade Mill site in preparation for developing a geothermal well for an aquatic and recreation center. The Phase I and II assessments and subsequent geothermal well sampling events for the proposed Cascade Aquatic and Recreation Center have cost approximately $91,433 to date. 

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South Log Yard in October 2004

Economic Stimulus in Full Effect

The former mill property has been transformed into an area of recreational opportunities, including a whitewater park, future recreation center, and walking and biking trails.

Kelly’s Whitewater Park

A portion of the Boise Cascade Mill site was redeveloped as access and day use for Kelly’s Whitewater Park, adjacent to the site in the Payette River. The park was funded by Mark and Kristina Pickard in honor of Kristina’s late sister, Kelly Brennan. The land was donated by local philanthropist Hans Borbonus and was the vision of Cascade mayor Richard Carter and several other community leaders.

The Friends of Kelly’s Whitewater Park Inc. supports recreation, sports, leisure, and athletics. The Friends of Kelly’s Whitewater Park Inc. is a nonprofit corporation classified as a 170(b)(1)(a)(vi) organization, which indicates it receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public. The whitewater park’s reported income in 2011 was $1.16 million, and since then, the park has reported assets of $5.27 million.

Boise Mill - Whitewater Park Gathering Front
The front side of Kelly's Whitewater Park Gathering Area and Gallery

Boise Mill - Whitewater Park Gathering Back
The back side of the Kelly's Whitewater Park Gathering Area and Gallery

The University of Idaho’s report “2011 Economic Impact of Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho” concluded the following:

  • Kelly’s economic impact on Valley County in 2011 was approximately $600,000 and the park provided 7.5 seasonal jobs.
  • Kelly’s attracted over 40,000 visitors, 15,000 of whom were first-time visitors to Valley County.

The park has turned Cascade into a competitive destination in Valley County. As the University of Idaho report notes, Kelly’s is creating “spending potential” for the community by bringing in tourists who could have chosen another destination or passed through to other points of interest. The economic stimulus key is converting these opportunities into realities by giving tourists and visitors reasons to spend money in Cascade, which is good for the town, the county, and the state of Idaho.

Kelly’s Whitewater Park has been recognized by many kayaking athletes as one of the premier whitewater parks in the country. Kelly’s is also one of the prime sites in Valley County for trout habitat. Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy the early morning and late summer days fishing from the banks or man-made island. Kelly's preserved this portion of the Payette River to ensure trout continue to flourish.

Kelly’s Academy provides Valley County children an opportunity to learn the sport of kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), and river surfing. All students are taught using today’s most updated equipment provided by the park at no charge to the student. The lessons are available to all students in Valley County grades 5–12.

Kelly’s also holds events that help Cascade’s economy as tourists and visitors eat at local restaurants, purchase gas, camp out, and stay at hotels in the area. Some of the events include the following:

  • Hometown Throwdowns are designed to bring communities of recreational boaters together in the spirit of simple competition with an emphasis on fun. To keep the focus on participation, prizes are not awarded to the top rides but instead are raffled off to give all participants a chance to win.
  • The Reel Paddling Film Festival (held at the Roxie Theatre in Cascade) features the best in cinematography by documenting the world of whitewater rafting, kayaking, and SUP.
  • The Payette River Games include international competitions in freestyle kayaking and SUP. The games offer a $44,000 purse with $30,000 going to kayak and $14,000 going to SUP competitions. In addition, other games include dog fetch in the river; Frisbee disc golf; fitness competitions; lumber jack, chain saw, and log cut saw competition; bocce ball; volleyball; fly casting; raft cross; and more.
  • The annual fishing derbies bring together anglers of all ages, with adult and youth prizes for the largest trout caught.
  • The whitewater park can also be rented for private functions and wedding ceremonies.

Boise Mill - Derby Poster

Cascade Aquatic and Recreation Center

The Southern Valley County Recreation District is currently in a full build-out planning phase using a 4-acre portion of the former mill property as a year-round geothermal pool and recreation site. The site will include a 3,632-square-foot geothermal heated swimming pool with an inflatable dome cover, three aboveground spas, one in-ground therapy pool, and a kiddie fountain. The facility will have men’s and women’s changing areas with showers, a director’s office, a reception area, and a gathering area. Plans also include exercise areas with weight equipment and treadmills.

Boise Mill - Aquatic Rec Center SignFuture site of the Cascade Aquatic and Recreation Center

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Walking and Biking Trails - The Strand

“The Strand” is a 2.5-mile trail that runs along the North Fork Payette River. The north end of the trail is at the osprey nests north of the Kelly’s Whitewater Park building. From there, a walking tour brochure points out various features along the trail, such as the future Cascade Aquatic and Recreation Center. The other end of the trail is at Fischer Pond, which anchors the southern end of the Strand. This family-friendly destination includes fisheries education, community gardens, picnic sites, volleyball courts, and a BBQ pavilion open for public use.

Valley County is also considering using areas for development of green space, riparian habitat, and a museum.

Boise Mill - Strand SignWalking Tour of the Strand

Boise Mill - Strand SignThe trail south of Kelly's Whitewater Park.

Staff Contacts

Brownfields Program Coordinator
Eric Traynor
DEQ State Office
Waste Management and Remediation Division
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
(208) 373-0565

Related Pages

Brownfields Assessment Program

Brownfields Grants

Voluntary Cleanup Program