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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, May 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Restore High Drive bluff, seek answers

A series of unfortunate events? Poor decisions from people who ought to know better?

At some point, the public will learn more about what happened below the High Drive bluff and why. In the meantime, it’s good to know that the area damaged from a mysteriously carved road will be restored.

To recap, last week a logging contractor bulldozed a road about a mile long on the lower end of the bluff above Qualchan Golf Course. The gouged strip is easily visible from U.S. 195 near the Spokane-Cheney Road interchange.

This was done without the knowledge of Friends of the Bluff, a group of community volunteers involved in the preservation of about 500 hillside acres between High Drive and Latah Creek. The area has a series of heavily used trails. The damaged area was mostly park land, along with some private parcels.

The contractor, Adam Swedberg, hired attorney Bob Dunn after the initial outcry. Dunn said the city issued Swedberg a timber permit. City officials say the permit was limited to 6 acres at the site of a planned three-hole youth golf course. Dunn said Avista Utilities and the city’s arborist worked with the contractor to determine which trees to cut. LeRoy Eadie, the city’s parks director, said he would not have approved the road project.

Avista is in the midst of a two-year project to upgrade transmission lines in the area, but has said it would not use the illegally cut road for that project. Instead it has announced that it will take the lead on restoration, starting with erosion control to protect Latah Creek.

City Council members Lori Kinnear and Breann Beggs, whose districts include the South Hill, announced they would seek restoration and try to get answers for how this happened in the first place. State law allows for triple damages for unauthorized tree removal.

Beggs noted on Monday that he had yet to see evidence that the contractor had all the permits needed to proceed, including a grading permit and the shoreline permit needed for projects near waterways – in this case, Latah Creek.

The road now poses an erosion threat, and it’s possible that more trees may need to be cut down because the bulldozer cut into their roots.

Despite some calls to leave the road there, mitigation and restoration are the right moves. A beloved natural area was illegally mutilated. Use of the road could cause further damage.

This is not the place to try to turn lemons into lemonade.

At the same time, the quest to untangle how this occurred must continue. The city of Spokane, the Parks Department, Avista, the contractor and First Tee, a nonprofit that promotes youth golf, have all been implicated.

Responsible parties should be held accountable. Innocent parties should be cleared.

Then, perhaps, public trust can also be repaired and lessons can be learned.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”

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