A long-awaited environmental study urges officials to tread lightly in developing a park in Karns Meadow, saying it could easily upset an ecosystem already hemmed in and strained by human activity.
The analysis argues for a more strategic and carefully considered approach to managing the 42-acre swath of wetlands along Flat Creek and surrounded by Jackson. Though the report doesn’t dismiss the prospect of building a park, it does address key features with great caution.
“The gains to our community may be outweighed by the impacts to wildlife habitat,” states the analysis, which was produced by Jackson-based environmental consultant EcoConnect.
If elected officials take that judgment to heart, it could mean the property will not fulfill the vision Pete Karns had in mind when he sold it to the town with conservation easements in 2003. He made clear that he hoped to strike a balance between the interests of Jackson’s human and animal residents.
“My family wants wildlife to thrive,” he wrote in a News&Guide guest shot in January 2018. “We want this great community to thrive; and we want the Karns Meadow to be used by the people of Jackson and not just the wildlife who live there.”
As part of the purchasing agreement between the Karns family, the town and the Jackson Hole Land Trust, which contributed $1 million to buy the land, the list of approved uses includes a pathway around the perimeter of the meadow with trail lighting.
According to the analysis, such a pathway “not only contradicts the stated goals of the Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan to protect and steward open space but may also have a negative impact on surrounding habitat.”
More broadly, in a sweeping 200-plus pages, the analysis considers everything from archaeological artifacts in the meadow to the plants to the habitat and migration needs of animals ranging from mule deer to trumpeter swans to beavers. Councilor Jim Stanford praised its thoroughness.
“This goes through every kind of thing under the sun,” he said. “This is the document that should guide us as we begin to entertain any future changes to the meadow and how we might go about doing it.”
Read more here, in the News&Guide.