best of parks
Hop Porter Park in Hailey gets gold medal from voters.
Laughter and applause are the signature sounds of the three most popular parks in the Sun Valley area. Recreation-centric mountain people know what they like and it's no secret that we like to move, whether it's to play a pick-up game of softball or dance to a hot band on a cool night.
Hailey's Hop Porter Park on West Bullion Street is the valley's 4.3-acre gold-medal darling. Voters this year deemed it the "Best of the Valley."
Its central location and enormous maze-like play structure make it a great place for families and friends to gather in a town that prides itself on fostering close connections.
A pavilion complete with a barbecue means no one has to survive solely on laughter and draughts of companionship. The distant echo of a banjo that drifts in occasionally is just a reminder that the park is the site of the Northern Rockies Music Festival held each year in August.
Grab a skateboard and head for a sick ride at the skate park that's now part of Werthheimer Park at the stoplight on Hailey's southern Main Street. Manners are a must, but the cool moves and fun are nonstop.
Out of the way and serene
Try Curtis Park in East Hailey. Access it through Carbonate and Bullion Streets and Seventh Avenue. A short stroll through these 2.5 acres will clear any mental cobwebs.
Atkinson Park, Ketchum's silver-medal winner, is "Park Rat Paradise" in the summer with something for everyone, even those who are just kids at heart.
Most days, the roar of the crowd masks the frustrated muttering of the opposing team when the heavy-hitters connect in leagues from T-ball to adult softball. Soccer leagues draw players in the summer and pond hockey draws them in the winter. Picnickers with kids will find the young ones easily entertained with a playground and lots of space to romp. Access is from West Eighth Street.
Ketchum's Rotary Park on Warm Springs Road across from the YMCA garnered bronze honors for its get-your-feet-wet location on the Big Wood River.
The park is quieter than the gold and silver winners. Even so, sound snippets of a cool jazz sax on a summer Sunday mean that musicians are in session and the park is carpeted with lawn chairs, picnic baskets and listeners lounging in every angle of repose. It's also the site of the annual Wagon Days Duck Race, an uproarious family fundraiser held as part of the city's Labor Day celebrations.
Ketchum's streamside nook is Lucy Loken Park that tumbles down a hillside from the southern terminus of Walnut Avenue to Trail Creek. Stone stairs lead to shaded corners dominated by purple columbine and the delicate splashing of the creek. It's a place where it's possible to hear yourself think.
Ketchum's Knob Hill Park has the rewards of a high peak without the sweat. Those who summit will exert only a little effort as they walk one block north and then ascend a gravel path from parking on the north end of East Avenue. Stunning views north and south reward the masters of this magnificent molehill.