The Dishman Hills Natural Area will be restricted to hikers who must stay on designated trails beginning this month.
The Spokane County Commissioners voted 2-1 last week to join the state Department of Natural Resources and the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association in prohibiting use of mountain bikes, horses and off-trail hiking in the natural preserve in the Valley.
Spokane County controls 228 acres in the preserve. DNR owns 70 acres and the private association owns 220 acres.
The association, which inspired the preservation of the area with fund drives and land acquisitions dating back to the 1960s, has restricted its portion of the area to hiking for several years.
Signs posted to announce the restrictions on bicycles, motorcycles and horses have been destroyed numerous times, said Tom Rogers, association spokesman.
The association tentatively plans to allow wider usage of the 170 acres it recently purchased south of Dishman Hills on Tower Mountain. However, the groups still owes more than $100,000 on the land and has not received commitments from mountain biking or horse riding groups to help with payments.
About 35 people attended the commission meeting, more than 30 of whom spoke in favor of restricting use on the natural area.
“The land is under a lot more pressure with the growing population,” said Wyn Birkenthal, county parks assistant director. “We want to see the three entities in the preserve work together for effective enforcement that will help preserve the pristine nature of the area.”