The site of Tourist Park was envisioned as an intermural sports stadium when the Boise School District purchased 23 acres adjacent to Walnut Street in about 1910. As it turned out, the district found more suitable property for that purpose. The Walnut Street plot caught the attention of the Commercial Club of Boise, and in 1918 the club leased it from the school district and built what we would think of today as a campground. They built tent sites, offered a communal kitchen with hotplates, a laundry, a playground, and even a couple of concrete pads where you could wash your car.
From the beginning the tourist park was a success. In August, 1918 the Idaho Statesman reported that the “globe trotters” at the park had arrived from such exotic places as Portland, Eugene, Lewiston, Arkansas, Missouri, and Idaho Falls. That brief mention of the park started a tradition that lasted for years. Listing the names and hometowns of patrons of the Boise Tourist Park became a regular feature of the paper.
As word of the tourist park’s success spread, other cities began building their own campgrounds. Nampa, Caldwell, Cascade, Buhl, and Shoshone all got into the game early.
In 1919, the Commercial Club paid for a bathhouse and laundry for visitors, taking advantage of geothermal heat in the area. Building the bathhouse was a community event. The August 23, 1919 Statesman noted that “members of the local carpenter’s union, business and professional men, the mayor and everybody else peeled off their coats, rolled up their sleeves, spit on their hands and commenced the erection of the new bathhouse at Tourist Park.”
T.L. Martin, president of the Commercial Club spoke at the dedication of the bathhouse, saying that “more than 9300 tourists had made use of the park so far (that) year, and that the fame of Boise’s hospitality had been spread broadcast.”
Citizens often picnicked in the park mixing with visitors. Special events were held there such as the Iowa-Idaho picnic in 1920.
About 20,000 tourists stayed at the park annually during its peak years. The City of Boise purchased the property from the school district in 1927, just in time to see it turn into a bit of a hobo jungle with the coming of the Great Depression. In 1938 camping was officially closed and the site turned into something called Municipal Park. Some camping amenities and camping continued on a smaller scale there into the 1960s.
Municipal Park, now adjacent to the popular MK Nature Center, became Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park in honor of Boise’s Olympic cycling gold medalist in 2016.