Kathryn Albertsons Park has had many past lives: the area it covers has probably been filled with wildlife for millennia as the Boise River carved its way through the Bench and the valley, thanks to its waters and nutrient-rich land.
After the valley was settled by Europeans, the area’s history is a little foggy, until, according to the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, it became a campsite for Chinese immigrants. To be more accurate, it probably served as a temporary living area for Chinese workers until they could secure houses to live in.
I couldn’t find much about the ensuing timeline, but at some point, likely around the same time that the Chinese population in Idaho rapidly declined between 1900-1920, it became a gravel quarry and eventually a horse pasture.
Fast forward to 1979: Albertsons is a publicly-traded company in almost every western state, and expanding. Joe Albertson and his wife, Kathryn, imagined an urban wildlife sanctuary in the pasture down the hill, and bought the land. The park opened in 1989, and since has become home to 41 acres of roughly 400 trees, 2,000 shrubs, and flowers and grasses.
Its shallow ponds were designed to be a refuge for animals that otherwise don’t have much space here: beavers, herons, owls, salamanders, turtles, and waterfowl and song birds now call it home.
Here are a few tidbits of history about the park’s gazebos and other structures:
- The Rookery (one of the gazebos — the other is The Eyrie) has a roof of red tiles, which originally covered the first Albertsons store opened in 1939.
- The beams supporting The Rookery were originally used in an airport hangar where Boise State University is now.
- A cross-section of the “World’s Oldest Ponderosa” (it wasn’t, actually) was displayed in the park for years, but rotted and was removed in 2019. Before being cut, the tree stood over 126 feet tall and spanned almost 8 feet.