Taming the Wild
Why the Wood River Valley is One Big Public Space.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Cody Doucette
Gallery DeNovo “Tres Gracias,” Marta Morey, 2008, from Spain/Catalan.
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If you were to take the bike path south toward Hailey on a sunny summer day from either the city of Ketchum or the Sun Valley Lodge, you would notice that the bike path, in a way, is a microcosm of the area, because its purpose will meet whatever expectations anyone places upon it.
You would come across pedestrians either walking, or taking a break from it by resting on the nearby benches. You would see cyclists, both the leisurely kind, soft peddling nowhere in particular, and the serious kind, swerving in and out of human (and often, canine) traffic on their daily exercise routines.
Cross the wood-planked bridges and see the swimmers jump into the river below. And if you move slowly enough, you can watch the pollinators go from flower to flower and back again.
If you disembark, and park your bike at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, you’ll find at the building’s south end a small and well-maintained garden, built as a tribute to the memory of Lynne Cohen, who died 10 years ago, at the age of 54, from ovarian cancer.
According to Hilary Furlong, St. Luke’s executive director for the Wood River Foundation, Cohen was a longtime, part-time resident who loved living in this area. A few years after she passed away, her family and the foundation’s board of directors came together to landscape a garden, at the center of which is a labyrinth, patterned in a circle of gray and red pavers. A nearby sign explains that if you enter the labyrinth seeking insight about yourself or a loved one, you’ll emerge from it with some idea of recourse.
Philanthropy like this, Furlong says, does two things at the same time: it enriches and nourishes patients and their friends and families, while allowing the hospital to focus on the more immediate needs of the patients.
Gallery DeNovo, “Kind Met Handaan Gezicht”, 2007, Sjer Jacobs, Netherlands.
Across the highway and a little farther south there’s another memorial garden nestled in downtown Hailey, a couple of blocks off Main Street at the corner of Second and Croy. Jimmy’s Garden opened to the public on the Fourth of July, 2007, and has since become a favorite place, especially among children, to take in the shade or to run through the fountain.
For 25 years, Jimmy Gelskey used to live in a house at that corner, as did his mother, Ruby. Gelskey was a master gardener, an iconoclast, and a self-described “old hippie.”
A few years ago, when Gelskey was still alive, he welcomed his new next-door neighbors, the Pilaros, who’d just moved from Oakland, California. When Phoebe Pilaro, a yoga instructor, told Gelskey that she and her husband, Chris, a photographer and documentary filmmaker, were “expecting,” he was excited for them. As Gelskey’s girlfriend, Premrup, told Phoebe, “Although Jimmy never had any biological children, he was a force to be reckoned with in many children’s lives. He helped a few grow up who still resist that, and he loved a whole lot more.”
But only months after the Pilaros moved in, and just as they were getting to know their neighbors, Gelskey suddenly and unexpectedly died. He was only in his mid-50s.
After a period of mourning, the Pilaros and Gelskey’s family came to an agreement that they would purchase his lot, turning part of it into a public park. >>>