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Park planned near Long Lake

Residents create park district, lease DNR property

Phil Aune, left, and Scott Chaney stand on state Department of Natural Resources land Monday in Suncrest, where DNR will lease 40 acres of land for parks. Aune and Chaney help run the Lake Spokane Parks and Recreation District, which seeks to find a way to use the land and develop the features the public would use. (Jesse Tinsley)
Phil Aune, left, and Scott Chaney stand on state Department of Natural Resources land Monday in Suncrest, where DNR will lease 40 acres of land for parks. Aune and Chaney help run the Lake Spokane Parks and Recreation District, which seeks to find a way to use the land and develop the features the public would use. (Jesse Tinsley)

It was Scott Chaney of Suncrest who first eyed the 40 acres of state Department of Natural Resources land just a short walk from where he lives on the shore of Long Lake, also known as Lake Spokane.

The parcel doesn’t have water access, but it’s flat and close to state Highway 291, and Chaney thought it would be perfect for a recreational park, perhaps with a baseball diamond and a soccer field.

Chaney got to talking to Phil Aune, who lives a little farther south, and the two took the park idea to the greater Suncrest community. It turned out the 40-acre parcel is part of DNR’s 2009-2011 Trust Land Transfer Program, which was created by the Legislature to protect special trust lands, provide funding for school construction and transfer lands with special characteristics to the public.

Everything lined up, and come January, the newly established Lake Spokane Parks and Recreation District will be in charge of 40 acres of DNR land on a 50-year lease.

“So how does one build a park?” said Chaney, laughing, standing amid ponderosa pines near the land. “We are really starting from scratch.”

Aune, who’s the newly elected chairman of the Lake Spokane Parks and Recreation District, agreed.

“We don’t have any staff and we have no money,” Aune explained. “What goes into the park is really up to the public, it’s their park. They will be paying for it.”

The Lake Spokane Parks and Recreation District is the first parks district in Stevens County, said Aune.

He explained that Suncrest residents wanted to hold on to some of the green space in the area, and many were concerned vacant DNR land would be sold to housing developers when DNR began finalizing its land transfers.

“So DNR came up with the idea of gifting 40 acres to Stevens County,” said Aune. “But there was no organization set up to receive the land.”

The Lake Spokane Parks and Recreation District made the 2008 ballot and was approved by 70 percent of voters in the Stevens County part of the Nine Mile Falls School District – those are the voters eligible to vote on the land deal.

Since then, Aune said, the parks district has developed bylaws, a strategic plan and a Web site.

“And we all ran for office, pretty much unopposed,” Aune said, smiling. “We had to get it all done the right way, you know, to get all the government stuff settled.”

Chaney is the vice chairman, Rocky Fortner was elected as secretary, Steve Maggio as treasurer and Gary Brown is the sergeant at arms.

With a letter of intent from DNR and all the governmental procedures behind them, the new board is now ready to hear from the public.

The parks district meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at the Tum Tum Community Center, and everyone is welcome.

“The most difficult part will be to get people to come forward and share their ideas,” said Aune. “If you do something wrong, you can be certain you’ll hear from them – but we really need their input now.”

Possible park amenities include a baseball diamond, a soccer field, running trails, picnic areas, even a skate park.

“A skate park I’m sure would be very popular,” said Aune, “and it doesn’t take up that much room when you have 40 acres.” Aune and Chaney said any park construction would have to be paid for by a levy, the size of which depends on what residents would like to see in the park. Once some funding is secured, Aune said it’s possible to apply for grants.

“To get the good grants you usually have to have some matching funds first,” Aune said.

The two aren’t discouraged by potential vandalism.

“I don’t think it will be a big problem, if you build stuff people really want,” said Aune.

Chaney agrees.

“We live in a very nice community up here,” he said. “I think people will take good care of a park. It’s a big asset to all of us.”


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