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Best sledding in town

THURSDAY, JAN. 17, 2008

Spokane parks officials don’t want you to know this, but here’s a tip all sledding thrill seekers should know: The best hill in the city is probably at Underhill Park, just off Interstate 90 in the East Central Neighborhood.

North Side sledders, who last year lost access to the legendary embankment at Downriver Golf Course, might want to make the trek across town to sled at Underhill. The three-layered hill is plenty steep, and it has a long flat run at the bottom for safely sliding to a stop. It is easily a better sledding hill than Downriver.

“It’s tons of fun,” said Henry Dias, 20, who lives in the neighborhood near Underhill Park at Hartson Avenue and Fiske Street. “You’re never too old to sled,” he said.

Underhill Park is nestled against the steep rock face of the South Hill. The sledding hill rises 80 feet up the face to a former railroad bed that is now the city’s Ben Burr Trail.

As the hill drops, it has a pair of level spots that provide sledders with choices of where to start their descent.

Kaelena Allen, 18, said the multiple levels provide variety that makes Underhill especially fun.

“You can go to the very top, the middle, or the bottom,” said Tyler Castor, 14.

Spokane parks officials do not condone sledding in city parks, but they are not banning it either.

“We have no areas designated for sledding,” said Tony Madunich, parks operation manager.

Nancy Goodspeed, parks spokeswoman, said, “We don’t ban sledding, but we don’t encourage it at all because it is very dangerous.”

Last year, the Park Board ordered a ban on sledding and cross-country skiing at Downriver Golf Course because of damage that was occurring to the course and its greens. Downriver had been a popular sledding location for years and would draw large crowds of children and adults following fresh snowfalls.

Elsewhere, sledding is allowed. Coeur d’Alene’s Cherry Hill Park is open to sledders along with a pair of sloping residential streets in the Lake City.

Manito Park has long been a popular sledding location, but its hill east of the duck pond is considered too wimpy by older sledders who are looking for bigger thrills.

One of the hills at Liberty Park is considered challenging, and a run at Lincoln Park is a good place to go, too. On the North Side, Esmeralda Golf Course has a sledding hill just east of Freya Street and Empire Avenue. The mountain east of Esmeralda has sledding spots. Also, sledders in the past have used portions of the north hill adjacent to Monroe and Post streets.

Allen said that Emerson Park west of Monroe Street at Madison Street and Alice Avenue is another good sledding location. The sledding is done along a dead end of Jefferson Street on the west side of the park.

Several city parks have smaller hills that are suitable for younger children, including Grant, Franklin, Clark and Nevada parks.

City Councilman Bob Apple has been critical of the Park Board and golf course officials for banning sledding at Downriver. He said the golfers act like the course belongs to them, and not to the public at large. It operates through golf fees, not general taxes.

He said when he grew up in Spokane there were a lot more sledding choices, but many of the hills have been developed.

“I’m one who feels we should have sledding in the golf course and public parks,” Apple said.

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