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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. 


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.

Glacier Park featured on new U.S. quarter

PUBLIC LANDS – Glacier National Park is next of five parks to be featured on one of the U.S. Mint’s new “America the Beautiful” quarters.  

The quarter features a mountain goat with Reynolds Mountain in the background. It’s a view familiar to visitors who drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The unveiling is set for Wednesday at Columbia Falls High School gymnasium.

People will be able to buy $10 rolls of the new quarters.

Oregon state park yurts going to the dogs

CAMPING — For the first time, Oregon is making popular yurts and cabins at state parks campgrounds available to visitors with dogs.

The new feature begins next year, but the the state began taking reservations for pet-friendly yurts and cabins starting today.

Read more from this story by Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail Tribune. 

Cyclists rule on Yellowstone roads until April 15

BICYCLING — Bicycle riders have a few weeks to enjoy Yellowstone National Park before it opens to motorized, wheeled vehicles next month.

Crews at Yellowstone are clearing snow off the roads and the park is scheduled to open to motorists on April 15. Until then, bicyclists who are willing to brave the elements can tour the park under their own power.

The road between West Yellowstone, Madison, Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs will be open to bicycle travel for the next three weeks. Park officials say the northwest section of Yellowstone typically receives less snowfall than the rest of the park. There is no spring season bicycle-only access to Old Faithful or Canyon.

Riders must be prepared to encounter bears and other wildlife and should expect winter weather conditions.

Volunteers needed for trail projects starting this month

PUBLIC LANDS  — The Washington Trails Association, led by Spokane trail maintenace ace Jane Baker has an ambitious schedule to enhance trails, from the Dishman Hills and Liberty Lake, to Mount Spokane, the Kettle Range and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

Volunteers are needed for one-day efforts or you can even join the "backcountry response teams" that go out backpacking and trail working for several days at a time.  Belive it or not, it's great fun and ultimately rewarding.

Read on for Jane's initial announcement and invitation:

Two East Side parks won’t open this season

STATE PARKS — Rock climbers and people fascinated by caves will be among the first to feel the impact of the budget crisis facing Washington's State Parks.

Two state parks in Eastern Washington – Crawford and Peshastin Pinnacles – will not open this season because of initial state budget cuts and more closures are possible, officials said Monday.

Five of the state’s 119 parks are on the list in the first round of closures resulting from the agency’s $10 million budget cut going into the Washington legislative session. However, funding agreements with local governments will keep two of the three West Side parks open — Fort Ward near Bainbridge and Tolmie in Thurston County.

“Now we’re waiting on the Legislature to create the new budget,” said Tom Ernsberger, state parks East Side manager. “They’re wrestling with a lot of really big issues, and parks are just one of them.”

Crawford State Park near Metaline is a 49-acre day-use park featuring Gardner Cave, the third longest limestone cavern in Washington.

Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, north of U.S. Highway 2 near Cashmere, is a 34-acre day-use park featuring trails, sandstone slabs and spires up to 200 feet tall that are popular with rock climbers.

Spring is peak season for climbers heading to Peshastin, which normally opens March 15-Oct. 15.

Read on for more details.

Washington eyes parking solution to state park funding

OLYMPIA — With the governor's sobering budget proposal offering no state funding for Washington's state parks, adminstrators are looking under every rock for money — and they're also looking at every car.

A Seattle Times story, "Could Vehicle Fees Keep State Parks Open," examines the problems state parks are facing at the Washington Legislature in this grim budget crisis year.

Preliminary list of Conservation Futures properties released

You may recall in mid-October I posted about the newest round of Conservation Futures properties and the selection process. It was a crowded night at the IMAX where Spokane County park staff took input on the thirty-six individual properties submitted for consideration as future public open space areas that will provide outdoor recreation opportunities. Now this is not the final list - it needs to go before the County Park Board and then to the County Commissioners but the Inland Northwest Trails Coaltion reports on the preliminary list of properties available after the jump.

New WA State Parks director named

STATE PARKS — After a four-month search and screening 170 applications from here to England, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission today named the head of the agency’s southwest region as the state parks director.
Starting Dec. 1, Don Hock, 53, will replace retiring director Rex Derr, who worked for the department for 33 years.
“Don knows the agency, and he’s ready to lead State Parks through the challenging times ahead,” said Commission Chair Fred Olson.
Before coming to Washington, Hoch was area director of one of the largest county-operated outdoor areas in the state of Georgia.
His recreation and park experience also includes stints with various federal agencies, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, in Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Utah and Nevada.

Conservation Futures nominations move forward…now we wait

I’m reading this list of U.S. cities that have the best accessibility to nature. Portland. Bend. Bozeman. And no Spokane.


Last Tuesday I attended a Conservation Futures public meeting at the IMAX. The theater was packed.  Spokane County park staff took input on the thirty-six individual properties submitted for consideration as future public open space areas that will provide outdoor recreation opportunities. ( Erika Prins has an excellent cover story at Out There Monthly called the Future Of Conservation Futures.)  They are all beautiful - areas of land from a Williams Lake plunge pool – a unique Ice Age flood formation - to Liberty Lake to Beacon Hill and a six-acre addition to the Centennial Trail near the Kendall Yards development. And there’s too many. Next month, the Land Evaluation Committee will produce a prioritized acquisition list and forward to the Parks Advisory Committee – then to the County Commission in a December hearing. Maybe 3 to 5 will get ultimately get chosen. It’s a tough call but a testament to the popularity of the program and how much access we have in Spokane County, in addition to the close proximity to our city, even within.

State develops one-stop for outdoor resources

Washington may spread its outdoor responsibilities among many departments, but it has gathered them into one place on the web for people who want to use them.

So if you’re planning on going camping for a week, need a fishing license and a hunting license, and wonder what sort of events are happening near the campsite, you could reserve a site, buy your licenses and check out a calendar, all starting from the same page.

You can also find out about air quality, water pollution, salmon recovery, shellfish seasons, burning permits and dozens of other things connected to the environment, natural resources, public lands, fish, wildlife and parks.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark announced the site today. A test drive reveals it to be practical, not particularly glitzy but practical and easy to use. The “How do I?…” feature is particularly good.

Enough with the bread already



The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department is pleading with park guests this summer: please don’t feed the ducks. For the last two years, the parks department has spent a lot of time, energy and money on educating park guests about why feeding the ducks bread is a bad, bad idea. Bread is like fast-food for ducks: they get fat, yet are malnourished because they stop looking for their natural food when full of bread. Easy access to bread brings more ducks to the park ponds than what the eco-systems there can handle and the water quality becomes nasty; bad water quality hurts other wildlife such as turtles and frogs - and finally, some ducks never migrate because they stay where the fast-food is readily available.