The Slavin Ranch was saved from subdivision six years ago, but that doesn’t mean a lot of people don’t have their little share of it.
About 20 people hefted shovels and post-hole diggers Sunday, finishing the landscaping work on a preservation and restoration effort that’s taken the cooperation of government agencies, private businesses, recreational organizations and individual volunteers.
The 628-acre ranch, about eight miles south of Spokane, includes a loop trail for horseback riders and hikers, wetlands and a lake, as well as remnants of the original homestead.
“Six years is a long time,” said Randy Barcus, a member of the county Parks Advisory Board and the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, who was among the leaders of the effort throughout. “It’s even better in person, to me, than it looked in the drawings.”
Sunday’s work party capped years of effort, which started when the county reached a deal to buy the land from the Slavin family in 1999 and concluded this fall with work on the graveled lot and landscaping.
Barcus said REI provided a $5,000 grant to pay for engineering and design of the trailhead, and the county provided labor to get most of the work done. On Sunday, volunteers with the Inland Northwest chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen and Spokane Mountaineers planted more than 120 shrubs and bushes around the trailhead. The new sign at the lot credits the horsemen, mountaineers, county and REI for the project.
“All these people out here are volunteers,” Barcus said. “They’ve got other things they could be doing with their Sunday.”
Spokane County paid $1.2 million for the land, which was supplemented by federal funding for wetlands restoration. The county money came from the conservation futures program, which levies an annual tax of $6 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The program has placed 3,993 acres of open space into conservation since 1994.
Members of the backcountry horsemen said the Slavin Ranch is particularly diverse in wildlife and terrain for a relatively small area. Moose, deer and waterfowl can be seen along a four-mile loop trail, and basalt bluffs make good places for wildlife watching.
“There’s a lot of variety for a little place,” said Michelle LeVar, a member of the backcountry riding group.
The ranch was owned by the Hartmeier family from 1890 until 1965, when Jim Slavin and his wife, Joanne, bought it. Slavin told The Spokesman-Review in 1999 that he had gained approval to subdivide the land, and had considered selling it for development if the conservation deal didn’t work out.
Shirley Carroll, a member of the horsemen’s group, noted that more and more state and federal trail systems charge fees and more fences are going up on rural land.
“It’s extremely exciting” to see the Slavin Ranch take shape, she said. “This area could have been all homes.”