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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.

North Cascades: expansion proposed for little-visited park

PUBLIC LANDS — North Cascades National Park is the second-least visited of the 58 major national parks in the United States, according to Ranger Charles Beall, acting superintendent for the park. Only Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior, draws fewer visitors per year, he said.

In 2011, North Cascades National Park had 19,208 visitors, according to National Park statistics. The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, one of the most visited parks, had more than 15 million. Olympic National Park had nearly 3 million.

Supporters of the American Alps Legacy project want to would enlarge North Cascades Park by roughly one-third, adding 237,702 acres to the total.

They say it would add more protection and stature to the park on both sides of U.S. Highway 2.

But many people are skeptical, noting that there's little money in the federal budget for developing the park, it could restrict hunting and even hiking with dogs.

See the update from the Everett Herald.

  

Public meetings seek ideas on city parks budget cuts

CITY PARKS — In 2013 the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be facing an estimated 5.5 percent budget reduction totaling about $1 million.

Parks officials have set two public meetings this week to help form priorities for the program cuts that will need to be made:

Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Southside Community Center, 3151 E. 27th, in the Spokane Parks Foundation Ballroom.

Thursday, June 28, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook, in the Hillyard Senior Center, Conference Room. 

If you can't make it to one of the meetings, please give your opinion in this short survey.

You can also learn more about the 2013 Budget at spokaneparks.org.

Discover Riverside State Park during Sunday open house

STATE PARKS — Special activities at five venues are scheduled Sunday, (June 24),  10 a.m.-3 p.m., to introduce the public to features and recreation available in Riverside State Park on the west side of Spokane. 

The required Discover Pass will be available for purchase from staff and volunteers. Venues include:

Bowl and Pitcher Area, 4427 North Aubrey L. White Parkway – Hiking and biking information; a free beginner orienteering course; displays, wildlife presentations and children’s activities.

Nine Mile Recreation Area, 11226 West Charles Rd – Canoeing and kayaking activities with boats for loan, boating safety expert, bass and fly fishing info, Lake Spokane presentations.

Equestrian Area, Aubrey L. White Parkway off Government Way – Tour riding trails and new campground facilities; free pony rides for kids under 75 pounds.

Spokane House Interpretive Center, off Highway 291 just west of Nine Mile Dam – Indoor and outdoor museum exhibits and demonstrations about the early fur trade.

Off-Road Vehicle Area, 9412 N. Inland Road – All-terrain vehicle test drives, ride-alongs with expert ORV drivers and displays featuring ORV gear.

More information: riversidestatepark.org.

Banff National Park slashes staff positions

PARKS — Fewer people will be taking care of fish, wildlife and the land in Canada's Banff National Park this year.

Parks Canada has eliminated 49 vacant positions on top of other job losses in Banff National Park and employees are being warned not to publicly talk about the federal government’s budget cuts – or face disciplinary action.

That figure had not been previously publicly revealed, but the elimination of the 49 vacant positions is on top of 34 other “impacted” positions in the Banff field unit alone.

Read the Rocky Mountain Outlook story.

Plows still working on Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road

NATIONAL PARKS — Logan Pass at the top of Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road likely will be open for vehicle traffic sometime next week, officials say.

A storm last weekend dumped another 10 inches of snow on the park high country prompting additional snow slides on the road and slowing the weeks-long operation. 

Since Memorial Day Weekend, at least 35 inches of snow has fallen on the road at higher elevations.

Crews are working on the Big Drift, a 25-30 feet drift about a fourth of a mile east of the Logan Pass Visitor Center.

In addition to all the snow removal, crews have to install hundreds of guard rails along the road.

Currently, 29 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open to vehicle travel. Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.

Although park officials had hoped to open just before Father's Day weekend, opening the week after would still be much better than last year's late, late July 13 opening.

Hikers and bicyclists have access to more of the road than motor vehicles as plowing continues.

Click here for Current road status and where you can hike and bike on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Click here for detailed map of locations along the road mentioned in the daily plowing updates.

Click here for 2012 plowing photos on our Flickr site.
  

Spokane County dog-leash laws to be enforced at conservation areas

TRAILS — Spokane County officials announced today they will begin addressing the issue of unleashed dogs — a long-simmering aggravation that's been been stoked in recent years by the purchase of county conservation lands, which many pet owners wrongly assume to be dog parks

An emphasis patrol to enforce dog leash laws on 12,000 acres of Spokane County park and conservation lands is being launched later this week. The effort is fueled by a $140,000 grant.

Patrols are scheduled for six weeks. The funding also provides for additional patrols by off-duty County Sheriffs officers to deal with issues such as off-leash dogs, shooting and off-road vehicles through June 30, 2013, said Paul Knowles, Spokane Count Parks planner.

The project will start this weekend at Antoine Peak Conservation Area just north of East Valley High School.

Spokane County Park Ranger Bryant Robinson said dogs running off leash is the top complaint from the public, ahead of the No. 2 complaint of off-road vehicles going onto park land.

The breaking point may have come recently when Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard endured the abuse that's been fetching more and more complaints throughout the county.

During a commission briefing today, Richard said his dogs were attacked by three off-leash dogs and when he confronted the owner of the off-leash dogs, he was threatened himself.

“Some people don't take kindly to telling them how to manage their pets,” noted Nicole Montano, animal protection manager for SCRAPS.

S-R reporter Mike Prager was at the briefing and filed this detailed report on the enforcement effort.

Other emphasis patrols currently scheduled include:

During the leash emphasis, authorities will be issuing citations for other violations, including not having a license, which carries a $200 fine, or going onto park land with a motorized vehicle.

Violations of letting a dog run at large, failure to have a current rabies vaccination or having a threatening dog all carry $87 fines.

The $140,000 in funding is coming from a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office NOVA Education and Enforcement grant.

Washington State Parks still plotting a future

STATE PARKS — Should the State Parks system operate more like an enterprise-based hospitality industry, a public conservation asset based mostly on grant and tax funding – or perhaps a system of parks freely standing as community non-profit entities? What do people love about their park system, and what improvements need to be made?

Parks officials asked those questions at public meetings in Spokane last month as they gather info for big decisions to be made later. The statewide meetings are continuing this week in Western Washington.

People who love state parks should get involved now.  Comments are being accepted online.

Get up to speed here.

Annual walk includes 17 bridges over Spokane River

HIKING — Believe it or not, hikers participating in this  can cross 17 bridges over portions of the Spokane River in an enjoyable — especially during spring runnoff — stroll in downtown Spokane. An annual event sponsored by Spokane City Parks celebrates this unique Spokane opportunity. Details: 

What:  Participants will walk a 4.5 mile loop that crosses 17 bridges in the heart of downtown Spokane.  Experience the roaring Spokane River falls,  one of the city’s greatest natural wonders!

When:  Saturday, June 2, 2012  (OPEN START- 9:30am-10:30am)

Where:  Veteran’s Court (Corner of Monroe & Post Streets)

Cost:  $9 Adults ages 17 and older, $9 youth ages 5-16, FREE for ages 4 and under (no participation pin).

Register here  or call (509) 625-6200.

Spokane meetings focus on future of state parks

PARKS — Washington State Parks officials have set meetings in Spokane to discuss potentially sweeping changes in management of facilities at Riverside and Mount Spokane.

The meetings will be at Spokane Public Library Shadle Branch, 2111 W. Wellesley Ave. as follows:

Similar meetings across the state will gather public opinion on whether the state parks system would be operated as a private enterprise based on profits generated at the sites or as a public conservation asset.

Other options include turning over more parks to local communities to operate as a non-profit attractions, officials said.

Officials also are asking the public to help them rank the top features of their state parks and what needs improvement, said Virginia Painter, parks spokeswoman in Olympia.

The cash-strapped parks system is trying to make a five-year management plan. The Washington Legislature had voted to wean the parks from all state general funding in the next few years.

Rangers and other staff positions at Riverside and Mount Spokane state parks were cut by 40 percent in Jaunary.

Click here for information about the planning effort and making comments.

Hikers, bikers have free access to Glacier Park roads

PUBLIC LANDS — Glacier Nationa Park has a special incentive for walkers and cyclists for the next month or so, but especially next week when ntrance fees to Glacier National Park and the nearly 400 National Park Sites across the country will be waived during National Park Week, April 21-29.  

At the same time, plows have begun clearing the roads toward Logan Pass. While motor vehicles are still prohibited, bicyclers and walkers can go progressively farther behind the locked gates as plowing advances.

Currently, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to motorized traffic from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge and from the St. Mary Entrance to Rising Sun.  Hiker/biker access is available for 5.5 miles from the Lake McDonald Gate to Avalanche while the road plow is working.  

This weekend, April 21-22, no restrictions are anticipated for hiker/biker access on the west side or east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The Camas Road is open and the Two Medicine Road on the east side is currently open to Running Eagle Falls.  

Weather conditions in the park can vary greatly from local valley locations, and road status can change depending on weather conditions and snow plowing activities.

Click here to check park conditions and the progess of the plows, or call  (406) 888-7800.

Additional entrance fee-free dates during the year will be June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), September 29 (National Public Lands Day), and November 10 to 12 (Veterans Day weekend).

Helpers needed for trail project at Liberty Lake

TRAILS – Helpers are needed for a series of Liberty Lake trail rerouting projects on the 7-mile loop trail at Liberty Lake County Park, starting next Sunday, organized by the Washington Trails Association.

Other scheduled dates for working at Liberty Lake are March 29 and 31 and April 2 and 26.

WTA pledged to rally area volunteers and contribute 2,000 hours of volunteer effort over the next two years in order to get a grant from the Washington Recreational Trails Program. 

Liberty Lake, at 3,000 acres, is one of the largest county parks in the state.  This is an excellent opportunity to get to know the park better and chip in some effort to improve the hiking/biking/horse-riding opportunities. 

Sign up online here.

Info: (206) 625-1367.

Glacier National Park goes postal: featured on stamp

NATIONAL PARKS — The U.S. Postal Service is featuring an image of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park on an international rate postage stamp to be issued starting Jan. 19.

The stamp was designed by art director Ethel Kessler, based on an image taken by National Geographic photographer Michael Melford.

The image shows Logan Pass, the highest point along the park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. Melting snowbanks reveal a meadow against a backdrop of Glacier peaks.

The 85-cent stamp is part of the Postal Service’s “Scenic American Landscapes” series.

Stepping in some feedback on a column

A reader took issue with the recent suggestion that Spokane's parks might become dog latrines if the city had a significantly larger human population.

She thinks the opposite is true. Her argument hinges on the assertion that, if Spokane had a much bigger population, peer pressure to pick up after one's pets would be far greater.

Right now, certain people think nothing of treating parks as toilets for their dogs, she said. But if Spokane were a bigger city, that selfish behavior simply would not be tolerated.

Why? Because if 10 times as many people let dogs do their business in parks (and didn't pick up after them) our civic greenspace would soon be unusable. There would be, she suggested, a civic uproar.

Anyone acting irresponsibly in this regard could pretty much count on being loudly called on it by any and all onlookers.

Be nice if that were the case now. 

www.petwave.com      

More trendy activities proposed for Banff National Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Canada's national parks officials are making another stab at generating more revenue from Banff National Park.

Parks Canada announced last week that it would consider proposals to offer via ferrata, aerial parks, traction kiting, hang gliding and paragliding in Canada's flagship national park, although zip lines and canopy tours would not be considered after getting soundly trounced in public opinion polls after a previous proposal.

A report from the Rocky Mountain Outlook says conservationists are concerned about the dramatic shift away from traditional national park values, but the proposals are winning praise from business operators.

It's hard to believe that one of the world's most scenic natural areas isn't good enough to enjoy and savor just the way God made it.
  

Mount Rainier National Park superintendent leaving

PUBLIC LANDS — The superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park is leaving to become superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.

Dave Uberuaga (oo-buh-RAH’-guh) told park employees about the move Tuesday in an email.

The News Tribune reports Uberuaga started at Mount Rainier in 1984 and has been superintendent since 2002, except for a year-long stint in 2009 as acting superintendent at Yosemite National Park.

Mount Rainier National Park covers 235,625 arces and has a staff of about 200 people. Grand Canyon National Park covers 1.2 million acres and has 500 staffers.

Snow still smothering Yellowstone Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Early visitors to Yellowstone National Park should bring their snowshoes.

Park Spokesman Al Nash said crews are encountering the deepest snow they've seen in 13 years on the park's roads, with the snow on Sylvan Pass 22 feet deep, with some drifts 30 feet deep.

Read more from the Billings Gazette.
  

Trail helpers needed May 7 at Riverside State Park

STATE PARKS —  Volunteers are needed May 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for trail work a Riverside State Park organized by the Riverside State Park Foundation.

Note: The date has been changed since a previous post.

Tools, gloves, and snacks will be provided but volunteers should bring hats and water.

Poison ivy is an issue in the park so long pants and long sleeves are a good idea.

Contact: Greta Olson, 360-305-0520 or greta.olson@hotmail.com

Glacier Park plows snowed under

NATIONAL PARKS — Winter has retained its grip on Glacier National Park this week, stalling efforts to clear Going to the Sun Road and turning back cyclists looking for vehicle free riding.

Storms dumped 8 inches of snow in West Glacier and 18 inches in both the higher and lower elevations on the east side.

Read on for more details, links and options.

Deep snow leaves clean view of Quartz Mountain lookout

STATE PARKS — A good clean photo of the Quartz Mountain lookout in Mount Spokane State Park is difficult to achieve without getting the darned outhouse in the picture, said Cris Currie, head of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.

But this year's deep snowpack spelled RELIEF.

“The outhouse is completely covered by snow!” he said, flushed with enthusiasm after skiing to the the peak's summit this week and getting the purest shot of the lookout he's ever seen.