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State assumes last resort

Nine Mile Resort on Lake Spokane opened for the season Friday, a couple of weeks earlier than normal and under new management.

Riverside State Park has signed a 30-year lease with Avista Utilities to manage the resort, which is on the south side of the reservoir two miles downstream from Nine Mile Dam.

Lake Spokane is the Spokane River reservoir that backs up more than 20 miles behind Long Lake Dam.

The resort has 27 RV sites, five campsites, a picnic shelter, swimming beach, acres of green grass, boat docks and the best early-season public boat launch on the lake.

“The resort is especially popular for boat launching,” said Rene Wiley, Riverside State Park manager. “We’ve been working on the resort grounds since we took over in January and we wanted to get it open as soon as possible for fishermen.”

Water skiers and family boaters will be showing up in May, said Leslie Hanselman, who lives on-site as the campground host along with her husband, Winey. The Hanselmans also worked at the resort under previous management.

The state park’s other launch site is farther upstream at the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, where the river current from Nine Mile Dam is still significant, especially during spring runoff.

“The Nine Mile Resort launch doesn’t have the current or the stumps,” Wiley said. “It’s a lot safer.”

The Department of Natural Resources has a popular launching area on the north side of the river in Stevens County near Long Lake Dam. That facility doesn’t open until sometime in May.

Avista, which owns considerable areas of land along the reservoir, negotiated to purchase Nine Mile Resort in 1992. “At that time, the resort owner had decided not to reopen the facilities and was planning to sell,” said Elvin “Speed” Fitzhugh, Avista relicensing specialist.

“Avista wanted to ensure public access at the upper end of the reservoir, so we purchased it to prevent it from being subdivided and blocked off.”

The wisdom of that deal is verified by “No River Access” signs on every road that branches north toward the reservoir from Charles and South Bank roads.

Two former Lake Spokane resorts at Willow Bay and Tumtum are no longer open to the public.

Pat and Brenda Konecny were the most recent resort managers, operating under a 12-year lease with Avista that expired last year, Fitzhugh said.

“With the state park looking to develop their land around the resort, this seemed like a logical time to move the resort management into their hands, he said.

“We have long-range plans to put a bigger campground up from the current one,” Wiley said.

Meanwhile, camping fees are $15 for tents sites, $18 for RV sites with power and water and $21 for sites with full hookups.

Boat launching is $5 or free for campers.

Long Lake Dam was completed in 1915. The Nine Mile Resort property was first developed in 1937 by the Hugh Hedin family, who began operating a small fishing resort shortly afterward, Fitzhugh said. Hedin’s Resort was sold in 1965 to Kermit Logan, who changed the name to Nine Mile Resort.