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Rate hikes could force residents out of park

Heyburn State Park manager Ron Hise stands near one of the summer homes at the park in Plummer on  Feb. 26.  Lot leases at the park are proposed to rise dramatically for the 100-plus families who rent them from the state. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Heyburn State Park manager Ron Hise stands near one of the summer homes at the park in Plummer on Feb. 26. Lot leases at the park are proposed to rise dramatically for the 100-plus families who rent them from the state. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Following his retirement in the mid-1990s, Tom Simons moved to the Heyburn State Park vacation cabin he’d acquired some 30 years prior. The small cabin is in a wooded section of the 8,000-acre park, within easy walking distance of Chatcolet Lake.

“I like it here. You’ve got the lake and all the trees, and it’s nice and quiet,” said Simons, 73.

But Simons and other cabin owners, who lease their land from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, say proposed increases in the lease and utility rates could force them out. Simons currently pays about $1,400 annually to lease the land and about $200 for utilities. An appraisal calls for his rates to rise to more than $3,000 for the lease and about $1,200 for utilities.

“It’s going to press me right out,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do yet.”

Heyburn, just east of Plummer, is the only state park in Idaho that offers leased lots. Cabin owners on Priest and Payette lakes lease their properties from the state Department of Lands.

The park includes 24 floating homes and 142 cabins that are owned by citizens who lease the property from the state.

State law requires new leases be issued every 10 years and that the land be appraised every five years, said David White, north region manager for the state parks department. The appraisal conducted in 2008 will dictate lease rates from 2010 to 2014, he said. The lease rates are 5 percent of the appraised value.

Currently, cabin lease rates range between $1,063 and $2,731 per year for a cabin and $1,300 for a float home. Those rates are proposed to increase to between $2,763 and $6,613 for a cabin and to $2,750 for a float home. Cabin owners also pay $216 per year for utilities; float home owners pay $72. Those rates are proposed to increase to $1,291.97 for cabins and $749.51 for float homes.

Utility fees are being driven up by Heyburn’s need for a new water system and a requirement by state environmental officials that it develop a centralized sewer system, White said.

Michael Fereday, vice president of the leaseholders association, said, “What we’re seeing here are some increases that are in the amount that will not be supportable by people who have leased cabins there.” Fereday’s family has owned its cabin in the park’s Rocky Point area since the 1950s. “Most of us are people of modest means,” Fereday said. “There’s carpet layers, plumbers, retirees and high school teachers. It’s not the playground for the rich from Seattle. It’s one of the only places in Idaho that has been relatively affordable and is going to become out of reach for many people.”

Cabin owners have the right to appeal their valuations in a process that doesn’t end until November, White said.

“It’s only the second time we’ve done the appraisal process,” White said. “I’m expecting many more appeals this go-round due to the large jump.”

Alison Boggs

East Sprague gets benefactor

There’s something about East Sprague.

It’s just a bit outside of downtown, but not quite suburban. Some thriving homegrown businesses are located there, yet there are still many empty storefronts along Sprague’s sidewalks, and some of the historic buildings are used mostly for storage.

Business owners and residents have worked diligently to try to create another destination neighborhood, like the Garland District or South Perry, and now Impact Capital, through its Vibrant Communities Program, is giving East Sprague a leg up.

Over the next three years, Impact Capital will invest $50,000 a year to help organize targeted neighborhood revitalization in what’s known as the Keystone International District – the area in East Central bounded by Helena Street to the west, Crestline Street to the east, I-90 to the south and the railroad tracks to the north.

“This neighborhood has so much potential, it has great commercial buildings that need a little TLC, and there are great Victorian homes,” said Tracy Reich, senior program officer for Impact Capital. “There is some underutilized space there, and there are great buildings, like the McKinley School, which could become a big part of helping the community develop.”

Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs will coordinate this new effort.

Pia Hallenberg Christensen

Sports complex ignites ire

When Spokane South Little League officials presented plans last week for a $4.5 million, 20-acre baseball complex the group would like to build at Glenrose Road and 37th Avenue, foul balls went flying.

The Little League group would buy the land from the Morning Star Boys Ranch.

“I’d say the meeting certainly galvanized our community’s opposition to the project,” said Peter Ice, president of the Glenrose Community Association. “This is not going to be good for Morning Star Boys Ranch. They are spitting in our eyes. It will cause irreconcilable differences in the long run.”

About 200 people attended the presentation at Southside Christian Church on Feb. 24. The church setting did not deter a small group of Glenrose residents from yelling profanity and allegations against both Spokane South Little League and the boys ranch.

The Spokane Regional Sports Commission may call in a professional mediator, if all parties agree to a meeting.

“I’m trying to keep this moving forward. As you could see at the meeting this is a toxic atmosphere,” said Doug Kelley, sports commission board chairman. “The only way we can take all the emotion out of the issue is by meeting with a smaller group of representatives from all sides. A civil dialogue would be good.”

At the meeting, Glenrose residents said the sports complex would increase traffic, be a constant source of noise and light pollution, and take away habitat for deer and other wildlife.

Spokane South Little League’s Brian Gosline, who gave the presentation last week, said he’s not deterred.

“We are definitely starting the fundraising component,” Gosline said. “And we’ll continue through the process of planning and permitting.”

Pia Hallenberg Christensen

Donors back Freeman gym

A group of Freeman parents felt so strongly that students needed a bigger gym at the refurbished high school that they raised the $81,000 required to expand the building.

Construction on the high school is expected to start in late April or early May. In an effort to save money, the school district planned a gym with an 84-foot floor, the minimum allowed in regulations. “We tried to be very transparent with the community that we’ll build what we need, not what we want,” said Superintendent Sergio Hernandez.

“Nobody really caught on that our box wasn’t going to be big enough to accommodate a 94-foot floor for basketball,” said parent Tom Main. “There was a group of us that felt it was important for the district in the long run to have a floor that size.”

Most schools that build new gyms have 94-foot floors, which is the maximum allowed, said Main. Most regional and state tournaments are played on the larger floors, and all Spokane Public Schools facilities have larger floors. Making players practice on an 84-foot court and play on 94-foot courts creates problems with strategy and player conditioning, Main said.

A larger gym will also seat more spectators and can be helpful in wrestling matches and at graduation. Having a big gym might also make the school eligible to host regional tournaments, Main said.

In January the school board told Main and other parents the gym could be expanded if it didn’t cost the district more and didn’t delay the construction schedule. The group was able to quickly raise $31,000 from parents. In order to present a check to the school board right away, eight donors pledged the remaining $50,000 on a short-term basis.

Main said there are plans to host a golf tournament and auction on Oct. 10 at the Circling Raven Golf Course to pay back the donors who fronted the extra $50,000.

Anyone interested in making a donation can contact Main at (509) 710-1710 or at

Nina Culver

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