October 24, 2013 in Washington Voices

Volunteers restore Spokane River bank near Stateline

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Anthony Matthews, 30, an 11-year veteran of the Marine Corps and a student in Spokane Community College’s Natural Resources program, plants foliage to restore the south side of the Spokane River at Stateline on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

Dozens of volunteers turned out over two days last week with shovels and pickaxes to plant 800 trees, shrubs and plants along the shore of the Spokane River.

The restoration effort took place just east of the Appleway Bridge, across the river from Stateline and near a nonmotorized boat launch. The Centennial Trail was recently realigned to pass under the bridge instead of forcing trail users to cross a busy street. The land was deeply rutted and eroded in several places where people drove down to the water’s edge to launch boats even though an established boat launch was only a couple of hundred feet away.

A fence will go up along the trail by the end of the year, blocking access to the shoreline except at the boat launch. Volunteers planted ponderosa pine and other plants in hopes that they would become a natural road block.

“It’s really in bad shape,” said Lindsay Chutas of the Spokane Conservation District, which is heading up the restoration project.

The area was once in much worse condition. The Appleway Bridge was recently replaced and the boat launch area was closed during construction. “It gave it time to heal,” Chutas said. A recent volunteer river cleanup day took care of trash at the site. “You’d see needles and underwear and all sorts of stuff,” she said.

The restoration has been years in the making, complicated by the numerous agencies involved. The land is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Washington State Parks was willing to manage the land but didn’t have the money lease it and maintain it. The Spokane River Forum raised money to pay for the first five years of the lease and promised volunteer labor to maintain the site, bringing everything together. The Lands Council and Spokane Riverkeeper have also been involved.

Chutas said the Conservation District will water the new plants and trees for the first five years to help them get established, then the watering will be left to nature.

Guy Gregory’s day job is with the Department of Ecology, but he was at the site Friday as an outdoorsman and volunteer. “A ton of folks showed up,” he said. “We got a lot of work done. Everybody loves the river. These things bring people out.”

He’s grateful to see the restoration take place. “I float the river and fish,” he said. “We thought we were going to lose this (boat) launch.”

Andy Dunau, executive director of the Spokane River Forum, said he hopes the restoration will be as successful as the one his group spearheaded at the Mirabeau trailhead on the Centennial Trail. “When we restore areas, people tend to take better care of them,” he said.

As part of the project, a new parking lot will be put in next to the Appleway Bridge. The existing parking lot near the boat launch will be left to provide turn-around space and emergency vehicle access. The boat launch itself will also be improved by adding new gravel. “The plan is to make it nice and smooth,” Chutas said. “It’s a great access. It goes into calm water.”

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