In urban design, walkability is the measure of the overall walking conditions in an area. Factors which are commonly part of walkability studies include land use mix, street connectivity, residential density (residential units per area of residential use), and retail floor area ratio. Other factors which are also believed to affect walkability include access to mass transit, quality of sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, local aesthetics, nearby local destinations, air quality, street “furniture”, and traffic flow.
Walking the North End
I’m not sure about all of the factors listed above or what “New Urbanism” might actually be, but what I do know is that the North End is easy to navigate on foot. The grid layout allows for multi-directional movement through some of the coolest streets you will ever see. There is something around every corner – some weird, sublime and otherwise uniquely North End. Not everyone appreciates the diversity – on one block you will be confronted by a “hippie house”, all organic and seemingly out of place, next to a multi-million dollar “urban estate” or, as we call them, a McMansion. You see the old neighborhood grocers every 5 or 6 blocks with names like the Elkhorn Market; and gardens everywhere!
The North End is also criss-crossed by canals. Many of them are submerged but there are still several that popup and run under streets, houses and through park like yards. Most of these are fed by Crane Creek, where you will still see an occasional Crane and goes underground at Greenwood’s Ski Haus, and Hulls Creek that occasionally dumps over into Camels Back Park.
Just a few steps away from the urban setting of the North End are the Boise Foothills. The Foothills Plan and Initiative has provided unobstructed corridors into the Boise Front and access to relatively “natural” plant and animal habitat by foot and mountain bike.
The ultimate guide to walking and riding in the foothills above the North End is the City’s Ridge to Rivers website available here.
What to Look For
The Boise Front is home to everything from deer to mountain lions, foxes to falcons! Many of them visit the neighborhood from time to time and care should be taken. The North End is also home to many transplants such as racoons. The raccoon population of the North End is estimated at nearly 500! Most live in the storm drain system and come out at night to forage – mostly on garbage, cat and dog food and whatever they can find. Some of these intelligent and feisty creatures have been known to move into attics and crawl spaces, so be careful.
Along the trails of the Foothills are dozens of species of wildflowers and shrubs, sagebrush, wild oak and pine. The foothills have also been invaded by manu, a non-indigenous species of weeds. Some of these species are drought tolerant and thrive after grass fires while the native species struggle.
Boise Walking Tours
There are several opportunities to take a walking tour of Boise. They range from historic and garden tours to getting out on the right day, like Halloween, to take in the sights.
Preservation Idaho Walkabout Boise is an approximately 1.5-hour guided walking tour through 150 years of history and architecture. Preservation Idaho will introduce you to the built environment that makes downtown Boise like no other place – click here.
Pioneer Cemetery has been in continuous use at this location since Boise was settled in 1863 and there’s a self-guided tour available through the City of Boise – click here.
Boise Art Walks are guided video and audio tours of the public art in Boise. The tours are funded with money from both grants and the City of Boise. Boise Art Walks are free and open to the public. For downloadable podcasts and more click here.