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Huntington Park gets a facelift

Have you noticed all the construction below the southern side of the Monroe St bridge and up to City Hall? Avista and the City of Spokane are working on a new public plaza that will replace the parking lot immediately north of City Hall.  That means no more hopping the gate. The new plaza will connect Riverfront Park with the area known as Huntington Park, which Avista began renovating earlier this month and will serve as a new community gathering place.

It's a project that could only happen once every 125 years.

Under the partnership, the City made the land available, and Avista is building the plaza as a gift to the City from the shareholders of Avista Corp in appreciation of the 125-year partnership between WWP/Avista and the people of Spokane. The plaza project will not be included as a cost to customers in developing retail rates.

Mount Rainier facilities opening earlier than normal

PUBLIC LANDS — The recent summer weather around the Pacific Northwest has melted snow and allowed for Mount Rainier National Park staff to open multiple facilities ahead of schedule.

The Sunrise Road, Sunrise Lodge and Sunrise Visitor Center all opened to the public Friday, according to Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King.

Other openings that are ahead of schedule include Cougar Rock Campground, Narada Falls Trail and White River Campground, which also opened on Friday. Mowich Lake Road is set to open Wednesday.

The other areas in the park already open include Ohanapecosh, Paradise, Longmire and Carbon River.

Geese fouling Lewiston-Clarkston beaches

WILDLIFE — Asotin resident Charlotte Tuttle detoured from the usual Asotin County Commissioners meeting Monday to let them know what's on the mind — and feet — of people visiting parks along the Snake River near Lewiston and Clarkston:

"We’ve got goose poop up to our ankles and mandates up to our eyeballs," Tuttle said, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Tuttle said there are so many geese along the river near Swallows Park that people can no longer swim at the park or walk on the bike path without encountering gobs of goose waste.

Butch Aiken - emergency services director for the county - said anytime there’s a trouble-making goose in the Seattle-Tacoma area, it’s brought to eastern Washington, and now those geese are causing problems on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property near the river.

Children cannot swim at Swallows Park because it’s contaminated by the geese, Aiken said.

Residents asked the commissioners to explore possible solutions, such as allowing people to hunt geese during a certain time period.

"It’s worth looking into," said Asotin County Commissioner Jim Fuller.

Slip on snow kills Washington hiker in Glacier Park

HIKING — A Washington man hiking early season in Glacier National Park slipped on a snowfield and fell about 100 feet to his death on Wednesday.

Charles Fred Huseman of Packwood died from trauma suffered in the fall from the Highline Trail, which was still closed because of the snow patches leading to steep dropoffs.

Witnesses told park rangers that Huseman was hiking the trail when he slid on a snow field and fell, landing along the Going-to-the-Sun Road about a mile west of Logan Pass. Huseman died at the scene. 

Comment:  An ice ax is essential equipment for hiking high slopes and passes early in the season.

Boating facilities open early at Post Falls

BOATING – Below normal spring runoff has allowed Avista to stabilize Lake Coeur d’Alene at summer levels and expand boating opportunities about a week earlier than normal.

The Spokane River was opened Wednesday to recreation between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables upstream of the Post Falls Dam.

The Post Falls boat launch and swim beach at Q’emiln Park also has opened.

 You can also check weather and water flow information on the Avista Utilities website.

Spokane conservationist Robbi Castleberry, dead at 80

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UPDATED WITH VIDEO 5:45 p.m. on June 11, 2013

CONSERVATION — Robbi Castleberry, a pillar of Spokane-area conservation efforts since the 1970s, died today of an apparent cardiac arrest in her home near Indian Canyon, her husband, Vic, has confirmed.

Castleberry, 80, was on the original city-county committee that spearheaded development of the Spokane River Centennial Trail.

Her many conservation leadership roles include her current committee services for the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program. She's been the energizer behind the improvements and additions to the city's Palisades Park and the closure of Rimrock Drive so it could be enjoyed by walkers and bicyclists.

"Robbi was involved with groups like the Backcountry Horsemen and the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, and when it came to issues such as trails and river access she could be counted on as an absolute driving force to keep them open for all users," said Julia McHugh, another original member of the Centennial Trail committee. 

Memorial service arrangements are pending.

Oregon town still struggling with geese in parks

WILDLIFE — An infestation of Canada geese has been converting  portions of Bend, Ore., parks into latrines for years. Frustrated parks staff and health officials raised the ire of animal rights activists when they killed about a hundred geese a few years ago — probably some of the same folks who at turkey at Thanksgiving.

So the battle continues.  Read on how everything from vegetable oil to kayaks is being used to control the problem.

Volunteers to give key outdoor sites TLC this weekend

PUBLIC LANDS — Volunteers are planning to pick up and spruce up a couple of prized outdoors recreation features in the Spokane area this weekend.

Unveil the (Centennial) Trail, Saturday (April 20), 9 a.m.-noon

About 350 volunteers have pre-registered for the annual clean-up, working in sections to cover the entire 37.5-mile Centennial Trail from the stateline to Nine Mile Falls. The trail attracts two million visits a year.

Dishman Hills Service Day, Sunday (April 21), 9 a.m.-noon

Volunteers are signing up for the annual Earth Day cleanup and trail work in the Dishman Hills Natural Resource Conservation Area in Spokane Valley based out of Camp Caro. Organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy, new signs and kiosks are set to be installed and trail projects are being planned.

Discussion on Centennial Trail gap

One of the region's best features is the Centennial Trail even though it has some gaps. Now's the time to speak up on how to fix a few starting with Mission Avenue. The City of Spokane will hold another open house to update citizens on a study that is considering alternatives to address a gap in the Centennial Trail as it cross East Mission Avenue at North Perry Street. The open house will be held on Wednesday, April 24, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Assembly Room at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.

The goal of the study is to identify, develop, and evaluate alternatives to separate the Centennial Trail from motorized traffic, improve pedestrian mobility at the Mission Avenue crossing, and close the trail gap at that location. Alternatives that have been considered include tunnels, bridges, and at-grade crossings.

For more information, check out the City's engineering page.  It's important to have a large turnout at the open house to receive feedback that accurately represents the interests of our community and to discuss next steps for future trail improvements.

Olympic Park not taking campsite reservations by phone

BACKPACKING — Olympic National Park is accepting reservation requests for wilderness camping areas with overnight use limits by fax or postal mail only. Phone reservations are no longer accepted.

Limits on overnight use in high-use wilderness camp areas are in effect May 1-Sept. 30 to help minimize the impact from humans and provide a quality wilderness experience. Reservations for these sites are recommended, park officials said in a news release.

Reservations for camp areas without overnight use limits are not required and are not accepted. Permits for these areas are not limited and may be picked up at a permit office just before a hike.

A wilderness camping permit is required for all overnight stays in the park’s backcountry areas. Permit fees are $5 to register a group and an additional $2 per person per night for anyone 16 or older. The full permit fee will be charged for all reservations. The fee is nonrefundable.

Overnight use limits are in effect for these high-use wilderness camp areas:

Ozette Coast, Royal Basin/Royal Lake area, Grand Valley and Badger Valley area, Lake Constance, Upper Lena Lake, Flapjack Lakes, Sol Duc/Seven Lakes Basin/Mink Lake area, Hoh Lake and C.B. Flats, Elk Lake and Glacier Meadows and the group and stock camp sites along the Hoh River Trail.

Here's the proceedure:

  • Download the campsite reservation form.
  • Mail reservation requests to Olympic National Park, WIC, 3002 Mt. Angeles Road, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or
  • Fax reservation requests to (360) 565-3108.

 Click here for additional information.

Wash. state parks face grim future under Senate proposal

PARKS — State Parks were hurting when the 2013 Washington Legisature convene, and a bunch of them will be closing if the Senate doesn't scratch up some money to keep these valuable assets solvent.

The state budget as proposed by the Senate on Thursday — SSB 5034 — would CUT the state parks budget by more than $5 million and force the closure of some state parks.

A lot is at stake for Spokane area, where the quality of life is vastly enhanced by Mount Spokane and Riverside state parks, which also manage the Centennial Trail and Little Spokane Natural Area.

But under deep cuts inflicted on the agency over the past few years, Mount Spokane already has no ranger on duty two days a week. That situation would likely get worse under the current budget proposal, not to mention the 30 or so parks that would have to be closed.

"The governor’s proposed budget is much kinder to State Parks," said Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.

State Parks needs $27 million from the General Fund to keep the system functioning reasonably, said Jeff Lambert, conservation chair of the Spokane Mountaineers.  At this point, he said, "There is no long-range financial plan for State Parks."


Wash. state parks celebrates 100 years with free entry Saturday

PARKS — Washington State Parks were founded 100 years ago this month. In one of many treats and celebrations to come this year, the park system has designated Saturday a "free day:" vechicles will not be required to display the Discover Pass to visit a state park.

The State Parks and Recreation Commission selected most of its 2013 “free days” in conjunction with the National Park Service’s free days. State Parks’ remaining free day schedule for 2013 is as follows:
  • March 30 – in honor of Washington State Parks’ 100th birthday month
  • April 27 and 28 – National Parks Week
  • June 1 – National Trails Day
  • June 8 and 9 – National Get Outdoors Day
  • Aug. 4 – Peak season free day
  • Sept. 28 – National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 9 -11 – Veterans Day weekend.
The “free days” are in keeping with legislation that created the Discover Pass, a $30 annual or $10 one-day permit required on state-managed recreation lands managed by Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources.

Sequestration curbs plows, delays Yellowstone’s spring opening

PARKS — The giant yellow snowplows that wake Yellowstone from its winter slumber every March are idled, waiting for the sun to make up for federal budget cuts that are forcing the park to open late for peak season.

According to a Washington Post story, mandatory cuts kicked in three days before the plows were to start clearing snow and ice from 300 roads at altitudes that reach 11,000 feet.

Faced with an order from Washington to slice $1.8 million from his budget, the park superintendent, Dan Wenk, had considered his options, and delaying the plows was a better choice than cutting his already barebones staff of rangers and seasonal employees.

National Parks are just one of many agencies weighing choices being forced by the budget reductions known as sequestration.

Saturday’s highlights

At It’s a Soccer Life in Spokane Valley, the Spokane Shadow U13 team practices Monday. The soccer center has an enclosed turf field and a smaller futsal pitch. Weekdays at the center are usually filled with practices and weekends are packed with league play from morning until night. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

It's a sunny if somewhat nippy Monday morning out there, so lets take a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Correspondent Jill Barville checked out a new indoor soccer facility in the Spokane Valley Industrial Park called It's A Soccer Life. The business opened in January and hosts games and practices for area teams.

The city of Spokane Valley got some input on the future of parks in the city during a public meeting last week looking for input on the city's proposed Parks and Recreation Master Plan. A recent survey showed that local residents are most interested in urban trails, splash pads, outdoor aquatic facilities and indoor recreation facilities.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on the newest West Valley School District board member Adam Mortensen, a 1997 West Valley High School graduate. Richard Chan, husband of longtime Front Porch columnist Deborah Chan, has a column about how he has been dealing with his wife's cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The Spokane Valley City Council spent more than two hours talking about the future of trash in the city during their daylong winter retreat last week. They have teamed up with Spokane County to do a study on the costs of various disposal options in the future.  

Video: National parks a hit for Valentines

PUBLIC LANDS — If your recent Valentine's Day didn't go as well as you'd hoped, maybe you need a change of scenery.

When the National Park Service posted an online request for videos and photos of proposals in parks across the country, it had no shortages of replies, as you'll see in the video above.

Editorial points to success of Wildlife & Recreation Program

CONSERVATION — If you use parks, trails or public open spaces in Spokane County, you have been a beneficiary of the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program. (Click on this link and check out the more than impressive projects list under "campaigns.")

It's a state program worth funding, as today's S-R editorial points out.

Requiem for Bam Bam, park’s head-butting bighorn

WILDLIFE — Bam Bam, the bighorn sheep whose penchant for butting cars made him an international star, died of natural causes in Wyoming last week.  He was believed to be 12.

Bam Bam was the last of the Wheatland-area Sinks Canyon State Park bighorn herd, surviving a plague of pneumonia that wiped out the park’s sheep population in the middle of the last decade. Friends said he loved a scratch on the ear, Doritos and a good head butt.

I don't post this to support anyone's notion that feeding wildlife is a good idea.  It's lucky no one was hurt by this ram.  But I like the rest of the story as described nicely here by Benjamin Storrow in the Star-Tribune.

Upgrades approved for Rainier’s Camp Muir

The National Parks Service has approved long-awaited upgrades to Mount Rainier’s Camp Muir – one of the main stops for the thousands of people who climb the mountain.

Pacific West Region director Chris Lehnertz determined that upgrading the high camp would have no impact on the park, giving the green light to replace the camp’s nonhistoric structures.

Mount Rainier National Park superintendent Randy King said the project will cost about $700,000 and take three to five years to complete, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

Camp Muir is the highest backcountry camp, located at an elevation of 10,080 feet.

Liberty Lake Park trail closing briefly for renovation

TRAILS — Beginning Monday (Oct. 22) through Friday (Oct. 26) the popular 7-mile loop trail at Liberty Lake Regional Park will be closed for trail renovation that includes blasting.

Rock will be removed in an area to widen and level the trail.

The work is being funded with a $36,860 grant from the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office. In addition to blasting work, the grant is funding bridge replacement, interpretive signage, habitat restoration, and other trail improvements along the popular loop trail.

The Washington Trails Association, Backcountry Horsemen, and the Lands Council are project partners.

See more details in Monday's SR story.

Click here for information or updates or contact Spokane County Parks, Recreation, & Golf, (509) 477-4730.

AM: Post Falls Park Plan On Agenda

Keegan Day, 4, plays on one of the swings at White Park in Post Falls during a trip Monday to the park with his father. The Post Falls City Council is expected to approve a Parks & Recreation facilities master plan when it meets tonight, including a dog park, splash pad, community center and trail improvements. Story here. (Coeur d'Alene Press photo: Jerome A. Pollos)

Moose on the loose around town

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Moose are looking for love this time of year, and, as in humans, it can make them goofy.

This is OK when they're out in the woods, but it's not uncommon to see moose around Spokane, Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene and other towns in the region. 

Give moose a wide berth. Enjoy them from a distance.

Here's a report from Spokane's South Hill by Robert Estuar:

Might be time to remind people to be wary of moose off the South Hill bluff. I mountain bike the trails about 4 times per week and I've seen moose on 4 separate occasions over the past 3 weeks.

Yesterday around 6 pm, I happened on 3 moose (looked like a cow and 2 calves) about 25 feet off the trail. I've seen the moose on the lower trails -southwest of the powerlines.

Great to have wildlife sightings so close to home but I worry about problem interactions with people and their dogs.

Garden expert Pat Munts offers more on the subject today in this column.

State Parks offer free entry on Saturday

PARKS — To recognize National Public Lands Day on Saturday, Washington State Parks are offering free entry: The Discover Pass is not required.

Saturday is one of 12 "free days" offered at State Parks each year.  The final 2012 State Parks free days are scheduled for Nov. 10-12 during the Veteran’s Day holiday weekend.

Other activies recognizing the day include the annual:

Spokane River Cleanup

Dishman Hills Service Day

Video: How dumb can Yellowstone tourists be around bison?

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Every year we read about a tourist in Yellowstone National Park being hurt or killed by a bison.

The park warns people to give bison plenty of distance; change course if necessary; leave them alone because while they're amazing creatures they're also unpredictable and dangerous.

The same goes with moose we see around the Inland Northwest, and even mountain goats (see previous post).

The incident in this video won't make headlines because nobody was hurt.  But if the child being chased had tripped, it would be a different story.  

This was really stupid, especially since adults are involved.

Beacon Hill trails get $4K boost from REI

PARKS — Trail rehabilitation and restoration projects around Beacon Hill and Camp Sekani are getting a boost from the REI store in Spokane.

The store's presented $4,464 to the Spokane Parks & Recreation board for use in the popular mountain biking and hiking area. 

This is the last of three community grant part checks REI has awarded for 2012, a year of record giving through the program, said Carol Christensen, REI outreach specialist in Spokane.

 In addition to the Parks & Rec Foundation, REI awarded $10,000 to the Friends of the Centennial Trail and $10,000 to the Riverside State Park Foundation.  

That's a total $24,464 boost to popular local outdoor recreation destinations.

"REI’s mission, 'To inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship,' is what drives the market-based grant program," Christensen said.

The Friends of the Centennial Trail and Riverside State Park Foundation pooled a portion of the grant funding to hire a volunteer coordinator to “recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to perform repairs, maintenance, and cleanup of the Centennial Trail, including campgrounds, recreation sites, and cultural sites and to create and maintain a database of volunteers.”

All three organizations have already been active in getting volunteers on the trails with more than 150 hours logged through the volunteer coordination program and several trail projects completed at Beacon Hill/Camp Sekani.

Get involved with these organizations by contacting Jake Graham at Riverside State Park, email riverside@parks.wa.gov , or Mike Aho at Spokane Parks and Rec, maho@spokanecity.org.

Info: Carol  Christensen, cchrist@rei.com.

Governor candidates fuzzy on state parks funding solution

OLYMPIA — Regarding the state's cherished park system, the two men vying to be Washington's next governor are of the same opinion — it needs public funding.

They're just not sure on how much money to commit.
Read this Everett Herald story on what candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna say about the future of the Wasington State Parks system.
In case you've been sleeping for the past three years, Washington State Parks are in a dire funding crisis, as this recent S-R story reports.
Read on for sobering perspective from a state wildlife commissioner.

Volunteers needed for trail work at area parks

TRAILS – Trails at Liberty Lake, Mount Spokane and the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge are scheduled for rerouting or maintenance projects by the Washington Trails Association in the next few weeks.

The most ambitious project involves work near a popular waterfall to make the Liberty Lake County Park natural area trail safer and more sustainable.

All of the work is done by volunteers led by trained WTA leaders. Some businesses, such as Itron, have encouraged employees to volunteer on specific days, said Jane Baker, WTA leader in Spokane.

Liberty Lake work dates are Sept. 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 27, 29 and Oct. 11, 13 and 14.

Mount Spokane projects are underway this weekend with more set for Sept. 15-16.

Little Pend Oreille Refuge work is set for Sept. 22-23.

Sign-up online  or call (206) 625-1367.