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Landers: Clyde Anderson remains as sentinel of Centennial Trail

Clyde Anderson at Veterans Court, Mile 23 of the Spokane River Centennial Trail. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Clyde Anderson at Veterans Court, Mile 23 of the Spokane River Centennial Trail. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

A key player in the creation of the Spokane River Centennial Trail will have a mile of the 37-mile route dedicated in his honor today.

“Guess whose name is on the mile next to mine – Tom Foley,” said a grinning Clyde Anderson, who will be 89 in May.

Anderson was the president and general manager of Inland Empire Paper Co. in the 1980s when the city, county, local business groups and Washington State Parks were looking into the feasibility of a trail from Riverside State Park through the city to Idaho.

The ideal route was envisioned along the river, but the reality of a public trail occupying prime river frontage was a wish that needed help from the realm of divine intervention.

“The Centennial Trail follows the Spokane River because of Clyde Anderson,” said Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

IEP owned and managed about 110,000 acres of timberland at the time, including inholdings at Mount Spokane State Park and valuable land along both sides of the Spokane River. Anderson helped negotiate land exchanges that gave State Parks control of both sides of the river with 10 uninterrupted miles of shoreline for the trail.

“Ten miles of land with only one landowner: That was a dream opportunity,” Anderson said. “That’s how I got into it.”

IEP is owned by the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

“I’ll say this much,” he said. “The Cowles family was very generous.”

Once State Parks owned much of the land, AT&T also saw the value of dealing with one owner for linear miles. With the trail plan confirmed, the company negotiated an easement for a fiber optic cable and paid for the cost clearing and grading to leave much of the 12-foot-wide route ready for paving.

“Getting it paid for, of course, that’s the bottom line,” Anderson recalled.

After his 1991 retirement, Anderson was appointed in 1994 to the State Parks and Recreation Commission by Gov. Mike Lowry.

At his first meeting, the volunteer panel took up the issue of designating natural forest areas at Mount Spokane State Park, which has been a part of the Mount Spokane Ski Area expansion debate that continues today.

In 1998, the commission faced the gut-wrenching prospect of closing 17 parks to meet potential budget cuts requested by Gov. Gary Locke.

In 2003, Anderson had to vote on more difficult budget-crisis decisions that involved abandoning more State Parks facilities.

With no funding increases in sight from the Washington Legislature, the commission told managers at the remaining 120 parks to begin charging a $5 daily parking fee.

“This is the last thing any of us ever wanted to do,” Anderson told The S-R after the decision.

That fee was unpopular and rescinded after three years.

“There’s never enough money,” he said.

Faced with having no money to give State Parks during the recent recession, the Discover Pass was approved by the legislature in 2011, requiring visitors to state parks and other state lands to have a vehicle pass that costs $5 a day or $30 a year.

Despite all of the major issues and decisions, it was the Centennial Trail that initially caught Anderson’s attention during his career and continues to run through the core of his interest in public service and recreation.

In 2004, the Sandifur Memorial Bridge was built – the final river crossing needed to complete the Centennial Trail. The bridge was first funded in 1991, with the help of Rep. Foley and a $488,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service that required the bridge be constructed of wood.

From People’s Park, the bridge crosses the Spokane River and connects with a short path that winds to Summit Boulevard and Ohio Street – now a stretch of Centennial Trail past Kendall Yards.

The bridge made it feasible for the Centennial Trail to link with the Fish Lake Trail.

“This is a great relief to have it complete,” Anderson told The S-R in 2004 as his second and last-allowed six-year term with the commission was coming to an end.

“I consider myself a commissioner for life,” he said, noting that he still attends meetings.

He’s never lost track of his connection with the trail.

Anderson has served on the board of directors for the Friends of the Centennial Trail as well as the Pacific Science Center executive committee and the board of directors for Riverview Terrace Retirement Community, which is the official steward for Mile 20 of the trail near its valley location. 

Serve, serve serve – maybe that’s the mantra he picked up from being one of eight kids raised through the Depression by a Swedish immigrant father.

He served as a naval reserve officer, an aviation cadet in World War II and as a destroyer anti-submarine division officer during the Korean Conflict.

 “Clyde’s legacy to our country, business community, recreational community and volunteer community has set a high bar for how different groups can and should work together,” McFaul said. “He is a true servant and gentleman and I am honored to work with him.”

Anderson said he’s honored to have his name on Mile 23 to 24, which includes the spiffy new trail addition that runs from the Veterans Court at Spokane Falls downstream above the Spokane River Gorge past Kendall Yards toward Sandifur Bridge.

“I’ve been with the trail as an overseer and a user for 26 years,” he said.

He’s been a skier and active in many ways, but the trail has been one of his secrets to graceful aging.

At age 70, he started doing a bike ride on his birthday to match miles with his age.

“I did OK until 80, but that year it took me two days to get it done. I’d just had my hip replaced.”

Like his body, the Centennial Trail needs some upkeep.

“It needs to be resealed and that will take some creativity to come up with the $150,000 cost,” he said, before praising the efforts of the Friends of the Centennial Trail to improve and maintain the route.

“When you’re competing for funding against education and health care, recreation is low on the totem pole. But I’m here to say the trail is just as valuable.”

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or email richl@spokesman.com.


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