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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Updated: Bulldozing on South Hill bluff riles neighbors, trail users

A road is being bulldozed into the South Hill Bluff in the week of April 11, 2017.  (Courtesy)
A road is being bulldozed into the South Hill Bluff in the week of April 11, 2017. (Courtesy)

Final UPDATE, 5:40 p.m.:  Joint media release from City Parks and Avista just received.   Here's their explanation:

April 10 and 11, a contractor built a road and removed trees on Parks conservation land along the bluff on the south hill (below Bernard and north along the bank of Latah Creek), adjacent to and across an Avista utility easement corridor, and on private property.

There was an apparent misunderstanding regarding the authorization of construction of the access road and tree removal. The City did not receive or authorize a permit request for this work, which would involve property designated as conservation land.

The contractor has been told in writing and verbally to stop all work. The City of Spokane’s risk management department is assessing the damage.

Spokane Parks and Recreation, Avista and The First Tee of the Inland Northwest are committed to learning all the facts and to communicate that information with the public.

We’re also committed to learning from errors that lead to this unplanned damage to Park conservation property to ensure they don’t happen again, and to working with stakeholders to follow all appropriate processes to ensure restoration, mitigation and communication internally and with the community take place.

Related Project – The First Tee of the Inland Northwest Youth Golf Course

Parks and Recreation and The First Tee of the Inland Northwest, a private non-profit, are considering an agreement to build a par 3 youth golf course adjacent to The Creek at Qualchan golf course.

Parks issued a tree removal permit to The First Tee of the Inland Northwest for the 6-acre par 3 youth golf course only. The agreement does not contemplate a building of the road along the bluff or tree removal on the road. The road work done was outside the scope of the potential agreement.

Avista entered into a verbal agreement with The First Tee of the Inland Northwest to cost share an access road that could benefit both parties. Avista anticipates needing access to their utility corridor along the bluff Parks property through their easement in the fall of 2017 to replace power poles. The First Tee of the Inland Northwest anticipated using the access road instead of accessing the construction site through Qualchan golf course.

City Legal is investigating utility easements across all Parks property in this area.UPDATE 10 a.m.  A neighbor reports: "They've been installing taller utility poles all along that route. These cuts are for the installation trucks."

UPDATE 12:20 p.m. I've heard unofficially from one official that the dozing is related to a First T par-3 golf project, although the bulldozing appears to be in a different place. This First T proposal was presented to the Friends of the Bluff to much concern two years ago. Lots of officials are scrambling now to get the details. Still waiting.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m. Neighbor and S-R correspondent Jim Kershner reports:  "I just talked to the guys clearing trees. It's an Avista access road. They are planning to redo the power lines later. Not sure why they don't just make a road under the lines where it is already cleared, except it's pretty steep in places. They said it would not be paved or gravelled. Just grassed over. So it might at least be another path to walk or ride on."

Posted 9 a.m.

TRAILS -- A lot of concern is brewing on Spokane's South Hill as a bulldozer this week has been carving a road past the beloved bluff trail system  below Bernard and north along the bank of Hangman Creek to the power station below 29th.

Questions are being asked today on whether the work has a permit to cross public land to gain access to the last significant private parcel, below Manito Boulevard.

One South Hill resident reported this morning, "I ran the road this morning. Currently, it is about 1 mile long but it looks like they might be extending it. It starts about 1/4 mile east of the substation and goes almost to the powerline section above the golf course below Manito Boulevard."

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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