February 11, 2007

Area trail proposals getting on track

Rich Landers - Outdoors editor

While most of us merely make tracks on trails, others spend considerable energy making trails happen.

This winter, Inland Northwest volunteers are looking seriously into the prospects for creating or developing trails. The proposals include:

  • Circumnavigating Mount Spokane around the 5,000-foot elevation level.
  • Circumnavigating Five Mile Prairie.
  • Linking the 530-acre Dishman Hills Natural Area south to the 796-acre Iller Creek Conservation Area.
  • Connecting Beacon Hill trails through Esmeralda Park, Minnehaha Park, John Shields Park (Minnehaha Rocks), Camp Sekani and the Centennial Trail.
  • Completing the Fish Lake rail trail from High Bridge Park at the Spokane River to Fish Lake and Cheney.
  • Improving and extending the Spokane River Centennial Trail.
  • Creating a new 29-mile non-motorized rail trail, mostly along the Kettle River, on a recently abandoned railway from Republic to the Canada border.

These and other trail plans were presented recently in a public forum organized by the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition.


Ferry County Rail Trail
is the latest of the major trail efforts, in its infancy with a vision of what could be another gem in the crown of regional rail trails.

"This has the potential to be a home run for the entire county," said Bob Whittaker of Republic, co-organizer of Ferry Country Rail Trail Partners, a group that's trying to rally support for the trail.

"The rail line that's just being abandoned by Omnitrax runs from Republic along Highway 21 and then the Kettle River, through Curlew and past Curlew Lake, which has three resorts and a state park. The north end is at Danville, where there's another park, and it could link internationally into British Columbia's extensive rail-trail system."

Some of the Ferry County commissioners have already voiced support for the project and its potential for providing a public corridor to handle utilities such as gas, power, communications and sewer lines. Rail-banking programs and developing the route into a non-motorized trail offer tax incentives and grants that make the project affordable, Whittaker said.

Rail-banking preserves the corridor for rail use should it become economical in the future.

"Tourism and the international connection would be just two of the many benefits of this trail," Whittaker added.

A public meeting to present information on the Ferry County Rail Trail proposal is set for 6 p.m., Feb. 20, at the Republic Elementary School multipurpose room.

Info: (509) 775-0505; www.ferrycountyrailtrail.com

Featured projects
Other trail project updates presented at the coalition meeting include:

Beacon Hill Project , spearheaded by the Fat Tire Trail Riders, is an attempt to develop and assure a future for the many trails that already exist in the popular Beacon Hill area. Trail users could find some of their favorites blocked in the future, since many of them cross private property and land managed by various public agencies and utilities.

"Our goal is to bring this trail system above board, recognize it, and preserve it to complement new development that will be coming into the area," said Penny Schwyn, spokeswoman for the group that's mainly comprised of mountain bikers.

The first job is to work with private landowners in the area, she said, noting that the club has received a $5,000 grant to continue working on the project.
Info: Fat Tire Trail Riders, www.fttrc.org.

Dishman Ridge Dream Trail is just that at this point, a dream, said Barbee Scheibner, who represents the Backcountry Horsemen and a half-dozen other groups working on the project.

"Our goal is preserve an existing wildlife corridor and trail route that winds between two preserves on each end of the Dishman Hills," she said, referring to the Dishman Hills Natural Area and the Iller Creek Conservation Area, secured several years ago through the Spokane County Conservation Futures program.

"But we have to work with private landowners in that area; that's the key," she said.
Info: Inland Northwest Land Trust, www. inlandnwlandtrust.org.

Fish Lake Trail advocates already have helped groom huge chunks of the 10-mile rail-trail from Spokane to Fish Lake for public use. "Now our goal is to complete it," said group spokesman Dan Schaffer.

Of the three interruptions in the trail, the most troublesome and costly is the active mainline railways the trail must cross near Marshall.

"All in all, it will take about $6 million to complete this trail, but it can be done, and it will be worth it," he said.

The Fish Lake Trail, owned by the city of Spokane, links to the state parks-managed Columbia Plateau Trail, which is paved for 3 miles from Fish Lake to Cheney. It runs unpaved, but with a good riding surface, eastward 19 miles and through Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, and continues with a mostly unimproved surface to Pasco.
Info: Fish Lake Trail Action Group, (509) 624-2451 or e-mail traildan@comcast.net.

Mount Spokane circumnavigation trail is one of several new trail concepts hikers, snowshoers, skiers, horse riders and mountain bikers are trying to include in the new management plan being developed for the state park.

The round-the-mountain trail would be at roughly the 5,000-foot elevation level and about 5 miles long, Scheibner said.
Info: Friends of Mount Spokane State Park, www.mountspokane.org.

Centennial Trail improvements include a 2-mile extension already flagged from its current west terminus down to the Nine Mile Resort on Spokane (Long) Lake.

Jon Rascoff, president of Friends of Centennial Trail, listed several more ambitious goals, including linking the trail into Riverfront Park through the Kendall Yards project and building a tunnel to provide safe passage under Mission Avenue at one of the most heavily used sections of the 37-mile trail that links into Idaho.
Info: Friends of the Centennial Trail, www.spokanecentennial trail.org.

Palisades-Rimrock area residents are working on a trail proposal that would link that area near Indian Canyon Golf Course to Riverside State Park.
Info: www.palisadesnw. com.

Five-Mile Prairie Trail is pretty much a concept at present, but a real possibility, Bob Strong, one of several area residents in an informal group looking into the project. "Segments of human or game trails already exist, and they could link into the existing trail in the Little Spokane River Natural Area," he said.

However, about 80 percent of the route would be on private property, he said. "This will take a lot of work with private landowners, about 100 of them," he said.

© 2007 Spokesman Review. Used with permission.

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