Intimate Idaho Falls: The Greenbelt Benches

From Taylor's Crossing to Eagle Rock and finally to Idaho Falls, the Snake River has always been the focal point of this eastern Idaho community. Fortunately, the local government had the foresight to maintain a public park along both banks of the river, and particularly facing the city's namesake water feature.

Locally called the Greenbelt, this extensive open space is connected with a 6+ mile long pedestrian path, and sprinkled with benches, tables, standing grills, monuments, and plaques. Of course ducks, geese, and seagulls tend to populate any area involving people along with an expanse of water.

Especially after the first of May, there seems to be constant activity on the Greenbelt. Families come down to grill burgers and feed leftover bread to the waterfowl. Visitors staying in the hotels along the river will use the path for an early morning run or a late evening stroll. And they always pause to view the famous Falls. And the benches.

Yes, the benches.

Since 2006, the Idaho Falls Arts Council, along with the Idaho Falls Historic Downtown Foundation and the city's Parks & Rec Dept, have commissioned and installed these whimsical pieces of sittable art along the Greenbelt and around the town. For example, the Cutthroat Trout bench featured above.

Oh, The Places You'll Go Bench

Bicycle Bench on the Snake River Greenbeltdkmllrtime via Flickr, design by snakeriverrustic,com

Each bench has its own personality, its own stories, and quite often these weren't as originally planned. The plaque for the above bench gives the title of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!' Placed off the path, in a small copse of trees, the bench was intended as a place for reflection on one's direction in life. However, it's become a popular spot of photography for couples. Thus locals refer to it as the Bicycle-Built-For-Two Bench, or more simply, the Bike Bench.

Snake on the Snake Bench

Snake Bench on the Sanke River Greenbeltkzzzkc via Flickr, design by Davidjohn Stosich

Another popular photography stop: The Snake...River...Bench. Get it? A snake by the Snake River? Right, actually there aren't a lot of snakes in the area, the river gets its name from a local Native American tribe. But that's a story for another article. Anyway, the cubist snake with the river and the ubiquitous waterfowl in the background makes for a fun photo.

The Wonder Grove Bench

Bluebird Bench on the Snake River GreenbeltBob&Jo Photos via Flickr, design by Shayne W Harding

Several of the benches on the Greenbelt commemorate aspects that are naturally Idaho. The bird resting just under the seat is a Mountain Bluebird, the state bird of Idaho. Referring back to the bench headlining this piece, the Cutthroat Trout is Idaho's state fish.

A-Lure Bench

A-Lure Bench on the Snake RIver GreenbeltAaron Atkinson, designed by Jason Brown

By far the most popular of the Greenbelt benches is "A-Lure." Easily the most unique and eye-catching design along the river. This particular installation brought national attention to the series of artistic seats along the river, but not for its creativity. Rather, in September of 2012, this bench vanished for about a week. An anonymous tip provided police with a location outside of town but no one was ever charged with the theft. The unusual heist received attention in newspapers from California to New Jersey.

Altogether the Greenbelt benches number four-and-twenty. There are another twenty-three art benches, mostly in downtown Idaho Falls where the series began. The next Intimate Idaho Falls will take a brief tour of the city's original sittable art.

Living over twenty-five years in Idaho Falls, Aaron Atkinson enjoys exploring Eastern Idaho and the greater Yellowstone region. A complete list of the art benches can be found at the website of the Idaho Falls Art Council.