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Another live tree hacked along South Hill bluff trails

PUBLIC LANDS — Apparently we have an axe-swinging landscape terrorist on the loose who's getting some sort of warped pleasure from vandalizing live trees along the popular public trails on the South Hill bluff.

Another ponderosa pine was crudely hacked down in the last few days, says trails user Chris Lang, who snapped the photo above today near the first tree that was reported being hacked down below 37th and High Drive on Feb. 10.

The local group, Friends of the Bluff has done so much hard labor and work to maintain the trails and thin and prune the bluff forest to make the area less fire-prone.

But this tree-whacker apparently is no friend of the bluff.

These trees cannot be seen by homes along High Drive and are not in thick forested areas that are a still in need of planned and controlled thinning.

Keep an eye out for this jerk.

Live tree hacked down along South Hill Bluff trails

TRAILS — Trails users on the South Hill Bluff today found a live ponderosa pine crudely hacked down by someone using an ax.

The apparent vandalism is below 37th and High Drive.

A lot of people have chipped in to create the trail system and the Friends of the Bluff have organized clean ups as well applying forestry techniques and hundreds of hours of volunteer effort to make the bluff more fire safe.

But this tree was in the open, providing nothing but healthy shade and habitat.

What the hell?

South Hill bluff trails access to be closed

TRAILS – An access to South Hill bluff trails at 57th Avenue and Hatch Road is set to be closed this week.

The area is large enough for a dozen vehicles and is popular with hikers and bikers as well as people looking for unobscured views of full-moon rises and blaze-orange sunsets.

“The decision to close the spot was made by the developer of the Tuscan Ridge development project,” said Pradeep Hatcher, City of Spokane information assistant.

The private land, owned by developer Yong Lewis, adjoins public land owned by the city. Approved in 2007, the proposed development is controversial with neighbors.

“The developer has safety concerns as the project moves forward,” Hatcher said. “A report on the integrity of the hillside is pending, so the developer wants the area closed off to be safe.”

The area is set to be closed this week, she said. “The closure could last for the duration of the Tuscan Ridge project, or at least for a significant portion of work.”

The Friends of the Bluff conservation group has applied to the  Spokane County Conservation Futures Program to consider acquiring the Tuscan Ridge property for an addition to the popular South Hill bluff trails that stretch from the Hatch Road area north to Polly Judd Park near 14th Avenue. 

No decision has been made on acquiring the access site for public use.

Catching some air off the South Hill bluff

FLYING — My bicycle commute up the South Hill and along High Drive is never dull. The bluff trails invite all sorts of people and recreation, such as hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, runners, families, people on the verge of making families….

Last night I was treated to the flying spectacle of paraglider Jonathan Woodruff launching off High Drive.

"I parked by car below and I have time for one quick flight this evening," he said…. and he was off.

South Hill Bluff trails cleanup nets tons of trash

PUBLIC LANDS — While volunteers are signing up for major efforts to spiff up trails during the upcoming  national trails week, groups already have been sprucing up the South Hill slopes and trails below High Drive.

John Schram of the Friends of the Bluff sums up the most recent effort:

 A hearty and humble 'Thank You!' goes out to all who were involved in the bluff cleanup on Saturday May 3rd. It was a perfect overcast day for the nearly 50 volunteers to help pull up the piles of metal and trash to our staging area at 57th and Hatch.

A special thank you goes out to the 29th and Pittsburg LDS church members for providing a very large contingent of volunteers. The main effort focused on the bluff slope extending down to the Rocket Market and a smaller section near the river below High Drive between 33rd and 37th.

Pacific Recycling, our platinum sponsor, donated a 30 yard metal bin which we filled to the top. 2.63 tons of metal was hauled away which will net the Friends of the Bluff just over $420! Another half ton of garbage (including 27 tires) was carted off to the dump. All of this was accomplished two minutes shy of our 9am-12pm goal time frame.

After surveying the group's accomplishments, Schram seemed to think the sky's the limit for what volunteers can do:

Our next clean up effort will be focused on removal of the three vehicles at the bottom of the hill down from 37th/High. Does anyone have access to a helicopter?

Neighbors plan South Hill Bluff cleanup Saturday

TRAILS — The Friends of the Bluff are coordinating a trash cleanup day along the popular South Hill Bluff trails below High Drive on Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m.-noon.

Groups will stage at the dirt parking area at 57th and Hatch.

Gloves, water, wheel barrows, and dollies along with tie down ropes will be crucial items needed for the day. 

"If you have been in the down slope area recently you might have noticed growing piles of metal, tires, and assorted trash," said John Schram, a friends group board member and cleanup coordinator. He invited trail users to pick up and add trash to these piles, which will be picked up by the cleanup crews.

Info: Diana Roberts, 477-2167

Neighbors discuss development that threatens South Hill Bluff trails

TRAILS – A public meeting to discuss potential real estate development that could impact the popular trail system in High Drive Bluff Park is set for Wednesday, March 12, 6:30 p.m., at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 5720 S. Perry.

The Friends of the Bluff group is looking for a conservation solution to possible changes to the 22-acre Tuscan Ridge property, which is zoned for condo development.

Info: Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu, 477-2167.

Bounty of balsamroot along South Hill bluff trails

HIKING — I case you haven't walked over High Drive to hike the trails along the South Hill bluff, massive swaths of arrowleaf balsamroot have been in full bloom for several days.  Check it out.

Balsamroot starting to bloom on South Hill Bluff

NATURE — Reader Jim Kershner emailed a photo snapped Thursday of arrowleaf balsamroots blooming in brilliant yellow on the South Hill bluff trails — a bit earlier than usual, but, hey, we should have expected this given the smiles on golfers' faces all through March.

Kershner must have been running from a moose, evading a coyote or walking his rough-and-tumble dog, Jack — the photo was blurry — but those definitely were wildflowers.  

Take a hike on the miles of trails below High Drive and see for yourself.

Next to bloom:  Serviceberry.

Volunteers pack mountain of debris off South Hill bluff trails

TRAILS — A great turnout of 67 volunteers worked this morning to pack tons of branches and debris off the bluff below High Drive in an effort to make the popular South Hill trails more resistant to a major fire.

The branches have been trimmed and piled by a smaller group of dedicated volunteers organized this summer by the Friends of the Bluffs.

By noon, the amount of material piled up along High Drive for city crews to pick up was impressive.

The bluffs are in better shape for their effort and the slope and neighborhoods are safer.

Sponsors offered some neat prizes to help reward the volunteers. 

  • Info: Diana Roberts at WSU Spokane County Extension, email robertsd@wsu.edu or phone 477-2167.

Bandannas, prizes ready for South Hill bluffs work party volunteers

TRAILS — If you're a hiker, biker, dog walker or neighbor to the trails on the South Hill below High Drive, Saturday (Oct. 13) will be a great time to roll up your sleeves and show a little appreciation.

The Friends of the Bluffs are organizing a Firewise Community Event, 9 a.m.-noon, to haul piles of branches and brush up the slope.  All summer, volunteers have been pruning trees on the Bluff to reduce fire risk and improve forest health.

Hauling the debris up the slope will be good workout for a good cause. The firewise effort, led by specialists, will make the bluffs less prone to major fire that could wipe out the scenery for decades — and possibly torch a neighborhood.

Volunteers will assemble at High Drive and 33rd Ave.

The first 50 volunteers who RSVP and come out to help haul branches this Saturday will receive a cool, collectible bandana that depicts the Bluff’s arrowleaf balsamroot. Prizes will be awarded at noon.

RSVP to Diana Roberts at WSU Spokane County Extension, email robertsd@wsu.edu or phone 477-2167.

Families and kids at least 10 years old are encouraged to participate. Please wear sturdy work clothes and gloves.

Walk and learn: Nisbet, Gifford lead hike on South Hill bluff Wednesday

TRAILS — After a good turnout last week, author Jack Nisbet and forester Guy Gifford will be leading another walk this week on Spokane’s South Hill bluff trails to explain the value of volunteer efforts and a $50,000 grant to improve the health and fire resistance of the forest below High Drive.

More than 23 miles of trails on the bluffs are prized by local walkers and mountain bikers, but much of the beauty could be snuffed out if a fire erupts before the forest is thinned, said Diana Roberts of the Friends of the Bluffs.

Nisbet, a popular educator, naturalist and South Hill resident, will join Gifford for a two-mile educational walk on Wednesday (Aug. 29) starting at 6:30 p.m. at 57th and Hatch Street.

Bring water and a thirst to learn about urban forestry and trails.

Info: 477-2167

Guided walks highlight South Hill bluff features

View Larger Map

TRAILS — Author Jack Nisbet and forester Guy Gifford will be leading walks on Spokane’s South Hill bluff trails this month to explain the value of volunteer efforts and a $50,000 grant to improve the health and fire resistance of the forest below High Drive.

More than 23 miles of trails on the bluffs are prized by local walkers and mountain bikers, but much of the beauty could be snuffed out if a fire erupts before the forest is thinned, said Diana Roberts of the Friends of the Bluffs.

Nisbet, a popular educator, naturalist and South Hill resident, will join Gifford for a two-mile educational walk on Wednesday (Aug. 22). The walk will be repeated Aug. 29.

Both walks will start at 6:30 p.m. at 57th and Hatch Street.

Bring water and a thirst to learn about urban forestry and trails.

Info: Diana Roberts,  robertsd@wsu.edu

Palisades, Beacon Hill also getting TLC

On the heels of a $50,000 grant for a forest health project at High Drive Park, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has granted an additional $70,000 to the City of Spokane Urban Forestry program for similar work at Palisades Park and Camp Sekani/Beacon Hill.

“The money will be used for contract work on thinning and pruning the forest. This will reduce the risk of intense, uncontrollable fires that would threaten adjacent homes and neighborhoods as well as the trees themselves,” said Guy Gifford, a forester with DNR. 

“The thinning and pruning will also improve the forest health as the remaining trees will have more space, light, and moisture so they will be less susceptible to damage from pine bark beetles” he added.

Helpers needed to decommission South Hill Bluff trail

TRAILS — The hiking-biking-running trails blow High Drive on the South Hill Bluff are a wonder of volunteer enterprise, but somebody's going too far.

A steep, unsustainable trail apparently built for a downhill mountain biking course, is eroding at the bottom of the bluff toward Hangman Creek. City Parks officials are coordinating with the Friends of the Bluff group to decommission the ill-advised trail and stop the damage.

"Friends of the Bluff promotes a coordinated approach to trail maintenance that takes into consideration the fragility of the landscape and multi-use needs of the Bluff users," said group coordinator Diana Roberts.

"City of Spokane Parks and Rec has asked us to help them decommission (cover over) this trail. A good group of about 20 people can accomplish this in a couple of hours.

Please come out to help on Thursday (June 21) at 6 p.m.

Please sign up by email, robertsd@wsu.edu , for information about Friends of the Bluff and directions to the meeting place.

Dogs not welcome near South Hill bluff coyote den

WILDLIFE — Coyotes defending a den of pups are not tolerating dogs coming through their territory between High Drive and Hangman Creek.

After my story about a Thursday attack on a dog was published today, The Spokesman-Review has learned of at least three coyote attacks this week on dogs up to 80 pounds.

Coyotes generally weigh 30-45 pounds.

If you hike in the area above Qualchan Golf Course, keep your dog on a lease for awhile.

Read on for details.

Coyotes attack dogs on South Hill bluff trails

HIKING — A trio of aggressive coyotes took on two Labrador retrievers running loose with their owner on the South Hill bluff trails Thursday, sending one dog to the vet for a chest full of stitches.

Arch Harrison said one of the two dogs he was exercising — a Sarah — was attacked by three coyotes while they were walking on the popular bluff trails below High Drive and Manito Boulevard and just above the Creek at Qualchan Golf Course. (See map for area).

He wanted to warn other people who take their dogs to the bluffs.  Keeping dogs on leashes could help prevent similar encounters.

"They were fairly aggressive and although intimidated by me, they still kept coming back around," Harrison said, wondering if there might be a den in the area.

(Indeed, read this follow-up blog post about the six pups the coyotes are defending!)

"I was able to get to Sarah before any real damage was done but as I was running up to the scene she was lying down on her belly with one coyote at her nose and another one at her tail."

Harrison thought he got away unscathed until he got back and realized his other dog, Chewie, had tangled with the coyotes and suffered numerous bites and rips under his chest and legs.

"All his wounds were on the underside with minimal bleeding and so we did not notice until later," Harrison said.

He added: "A trip to pet emergency cost slightly less than one month's house payment."

South Hill Bluff trail maintenance dates set

TRAILS — Last Saturday a hard-working group of 20 turned out to work on Bluff trails.

The many, many more people who use the trails owe them a tip of the hat.

They did trail maintenance and prepared to re-align a trail that is steep and highly erosive. The new route will be more stable and user-friendly for hikers and mt bikers.

To complete the task, the Friends of the Bluffs are encouraging more people to join some evening work parties.

The first two will be Tuesday April 24 and Wednesday May 2.

Join the group from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to work off the stress of the day (and perhaps adjourn to the Rocket Market afterwards).

Meet at the Bernard/High Dr trail head and bring/wear hiking boots, work clothes, work gloves, and bring water.

Info: robertsd@wsu.edu

South Hill Bluffs look spiffier tonight, thanks to volunteers

TRAILS — In the photo above, volunteers pose with the metal-recyclable garbage they picked up today from the South Hill Bluff below High Drive.

Bravo, and a special tip of the hat to the teenagers.
If this looks like a crew you'd like to join for the "firewise efforts" to protect the network of trails and the adjacent neighborhoods and for other worthu projects on the bluff, contact Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu.
Or check them out on their High Drive Bluffs Facebook Page.

South Hill Bluffs to get TLC Saturday

TRAILS — Join the fun as the 'Friends of the Bluff' are having a trash cleanup day Saturday (March 24), 9am - Noon.

Meet at the main trail head just south of the Bernard and High intersection. Be prepared for the weather and to hike to our two focused sites which are 1/4 and 3/4 mile down the slope.

Volunteers are encouraged to:

  • -Wear heavy duty clothing, leather gloves, and hiking footwear
  • Bring wheelbarrows/dollys with ratchet straps and ropes as tie downs
  • Bring several sturdy cloth bags (think reusable grocery bags) for the smaller stuff
  • Bring plenty of water to drink

    Post event cool down at the Rocket Market (0.8 miles east at the corner of High Dr/Hatch).

Jim Schrock of Earthworks Recycling www.earthworksrecycling.com is donating the metals disposal bin.

					Diana Roberts, PhD Area Extension Agronomist WSU Spokane/Lincoln County Extension 222 N Havana St Spokane WA 99202-4799 Phone: 509-477-2167 Fax: 509-477-2087 Email: robertsd@wsu.edu 

Studs required for city hiking

TRAILS — South Hill trailmaster Jim Kershner said he didn't see anyone while hiking the South Hill Bluff trails this morning.

His photo explains why.

He managed to get home without any broken bones.

Anyone for luge?

South Hill bluff forest thinning started; comments requested

CITY TRAILS — While most people were relaxing or playing on Sunday, two dozen volunteers thinned ponderosa pine trees and trimmed branches on the South Hill bluff in a demonstration project for reducing fire risk.

“The idea is to manage the forest so a fire would be limited to burning grass and brush on the ground rather than blowing up into a crown fire that would destroy lots of trees and put neighborhood homes at risk,” said Erik Sjoquist, WSU-Spokane County Extension forester.

The bluff below High Drive to Hangman Creek has a system of trails prized by hikers and mountain bikers.

The popularity of the trails helped spawn a group called Friends of the Bluffs, which is working on several issues related to the trails, including trail maintenance, weed control and fire safety, not to mention dog-dropping containment.

The group is looking for more volunteers to complete the demo project on Sunday, Oct. 16, starting at 1 p.m.

Comments requested

Before proceeding with more fire safety efforts, the Friends of the Bluffs want High Drive area trail users and neighbors to check out the forest thinning demonstration project below High Drive just west of Manito Boulevard.

Email comments to friendsofthebluff@yahoo.com

For info on becoming involved with Friends of the Bluffs, contact Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu

Neighbornhood workshop on fire risk reduction for the High Drive Bluff on Thursday

URBAN FORESTS — The Friends of the High Drive Bluff are organizing a discussion on the proposed Fire Risk Reduction Plan for that popular South Hill recreation area on Thursday, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m., at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 5720 S. Perry St.

Anyone interested in the Bluff is welcome and encouraged to participate.
Last spring, community members identified fire risk reduction as a high priority for the Bluff and for neighboring homes. Attend this workshop to learn details of the plan, get answers to your questions, and learn how you can help with the project.

Contact: Diana Roberts, WSU Spokane County Extension, (509) 477-2167, email robertsd@wsu.edu

Neighbors gather to discuss forest health near High Drive bluffs

URBAN FORESTS — Residents interested in Spokane’s High Drive bluff — the trails and the neighborhoos —  are invited to participate in a discussion of forest health for the area on Wednesday (Aug. 31).

Last spring, community members identified fire risk abatement as a high priority for the Bluff. This workshop will focus on a plan for reducing fire risk on the Bluff and for neighboring homes.

The workshop will be held at the Rocket Market at 726 E 43rd Ave from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will include a description of the proposed forest health plan, plus a question and answer session.

Join in the discussion, enjoy a no-host beverage with neighbors, and learn how you can get involved in the project!

For planning purposes, please RSVP to Diana Roberts at WSU Spokane County Extension, phone (509) 477-2167 or E-mail robertsd@wsu.edu.

Volunteers tackle weeds on South Hill bluff trails tonight

TRAILS — Hikers and bikers are attracted to the trails on the South Hill bluff below High Drive — and so are noxious weeds!

Consider joining the group of volunteers donating some time to help manage the weed problem with a little muscle power.

The group met last week and the project continues TONIGHT.

Meet at 6:30 pm at Polly Judd Park at 1732 West 14th Ave. At 8 pm we will adjourn to the Rocket Market (or somewhere you suggest) for a beverage and to socialize!

"This week we will cut spotted knapweed plants away from sections of the trail where they are impeding trail use," said facilitator Diana Roberts of the WSU County Extension. "We will create a demonstration area that will be sprayed with herbicide next spring to impede weed growth along the trail."

Bring work gloves, sturdy garden clippers, and water to drink. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking boots are the recommended attire.
Info: Diana Roberts, (509) 477-2167 or email robertsd@wsu.edu.

Tonight: Volunteers meeting for weed detail on South Hill Bluff

TRAILS — Volunteers interested in helping manage noxious weeds on Spokane’s High Drive Bluff are invited to participate in a work party this evening, (Aug 17).
"We will cut rush skeletonweed plants away from sections of the trail where they are impeding trail use," said group facilitator Diana Roberts of the WSU Spokane County Extension.

Next Wednesday (Aug. 24), volunteers will focus on controlling knapweed. 

"Be sure to bring work gloves, sturdy garden clippers and water to drink. Long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hiking boots are the recommended attire."
Meet: 6:30 p.m. at the trailhead south of Bernard St. and High Drive.

"At 8 p.m. we will adjourn to the Rocket Market for a beverage and to socialize," Roberts said.
Info: Diana Roberts (509) 477-2167 or robertsd@wsu.edu.


Highly poisonous hemlock found near South Hill bluff trails

TRAILS — "Recently I was dismayed, but not surprised, to find poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) growing beside Hangman Creek below the High Drive Bluff," said Diana Roberts, WSU area extension agronomist for the Spokane/Lincoln County Extension

Why is this significant?

"Poison hemlock is the most poisonous plant in the Western Hemisphere," she said.

Roberts offers these insights and tips:

  • Poison hemlock is a plant native to the Pacific Northwest, but it is increasing in population locally. At this point there are a few plants in Hangman Creek below the Bluff, but many more upstream and it is likely to increase
  • It grows in moist locations, often close to Water/Cow Parsnip which looks somewhat similar (see photos)
  • Parsnip is edible but water hemlock is extremely poisonous. Confusion between the 2 species can be fatal to people seeking parsnip
  • Hemlock does not have to be ingested to cause damage. Pulling out the plants without wearing long sleeves and gloves causes an itchy rash (like poison ivy). However, allowing the plant to come into contact with mucous membranes can be fatal, i.e. don't let your dog run through this stuff - especially with mouth open and tongue lolling.
  • Keep yourselves and your pets out of it! 


Nisbet to lead walk, wild plant discussion on South Hill bluff trails

TRAILS — Is Spokane’s High Drive Bluff festooned with native plants or plagued by weeds?
Author and naturalist Jack Nisbet along with WSU scientist Diana Roberts will lead a hike along the bluff trails on Wednesday to help trail fans understand the vegetation.

The event starts at 7 p.m. at Polly Judd Park,1732 W. 14th Ave.
Wear clothes and shoes suitable for a hike on the trails. This workshop is not designed for young children or dogs.
Info: Diana Roberts, WSU Spokane County Extension, (509) 477-2167, email robertsd@wsu.edu.

Car vandalized at South Hill bluff trail parking area

TRAILS — Never leave a purse, wallet or valuables in sight in a car seat while parked at a trailhead, whether it's along the Centennial Trail or at the edge of a wilderness.

The latest reminder occured Monday around 10 a.m. when a vehicle parked on High Drive near 37th Avenue was struck by a thief while the driver was hiking the  South Hill bluff trails. 

The thief, apparently attracted by a purse left in the vehicle's seat, broke the window in full view of a residential area and fairly busy city street, grabbed the prize and was off.

Join group maintaining South Hill bluff trails

TRAILS — With more than 23 miles of trails to maintain on the South Hill bluff trail system below High Drive, a group is organizing to do the job right.

Join them Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, for a practical clinic on how to protect trails from erosion.

The group will work on an intersection that is eroding back to its "natural" angle of slope.

Mike Brixey will teach how to deal with these situations, which are common on the bluff trails.

Meet at the High Drive trailhead 20 yards south of Bernard. Wear work gear and bring sturdy tools!

Hikers and mountain bikers are all welcome to participate.

Info:  Diana Roberts 477-2167, Email: robertsd@wsu.edu