Standing along the edge of the Spokane River, just downstream of Post Falls, Bryan Myers has a grand vision.
“It’s front country, but it feels more remote,” Myers said of the 518-forested acres we’re in the process of circumnavigating.
Less than a mile north from where he stands, a turgid river of traffic rumbles by on I-90. Houses dot the hills south of the river. And yet it feels remarkably remote considering it’s less than 5 minutes from the nearest freeway exit.
We’re in the newly created Post Falls Community Forest. On its eastern end, the Community Forest connects to Q’emiln Park, creating a haven for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, anglers and rock climbers.
“It’s every bit equivalent to what Tubbs Hill has (to offer) if not more,” said Myers, the Post Falls parks manager.
The land was not purchased for its recreational potential. Instead, it’s primary use will be wastewater disposal.
“It’s primarily a place of utility infrastructure,” Myers said.
The City of Post Falls bought the two parcels that comprise the majority of the 518 acres as as a place to discharge treated water from the Post Falls Waste Water facility plant across the river.
“The primary function is for it to be a water reuse area, said John Beacham, the city’s utilities manager.
The final puzzle piece was purchased by the city in September. That was the 128-acre property that the city bought from the May family for $1.2 million.
A year prior, the city bought an additional 245 acres for $6.5 million.
Due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the waste water treatment plant, which handles waste water from Post Falls and Rathdrum, needs to reduce the amount of phosphorous it discharges into the Spokane River. Because of an increasing population in northern Idaho, Beachman said the city realized there would come a time when the plant couldn’t meet EPA regulations.
Instead, Beachman said, the city will discharge the treated waste water through a series of irrigation pipes in the Post Falls Community Forest.
The water will travel through buried pipes. Vegetation will cover the spots where the pipes come above ground, Beachman said.
He estimates that the irrigation project will be completed by the end of 2020.
While the purpose of the land purchase may not be recreation, it hasn’t stopped Myers and the parks department from envisioning a network of hiking and biking trails.
The first step in that effort is a new trail head on West Riverview Drive which gives hikers and bikers access to a network of old roads. That’s where Myers and I started our hike on July 12. From the trailhead, we hiked downhill starting on a trail recently built by the Lake City Trail Alliance. We then transitioned to old roads.
Myers said more substantial trail work will be completed once the waste water irrigation system plans are finalized.
The first highlight of the trek was a defunct mine. Known as the Diamond Dick mine, it’s a fenced-off remnant of the prospecting era. Myers said it’s unlikely any diamonds were found there, although garnets likely were.
Much of the hike was shaded, although we did pass through a number of open fields that once served as farmland for area homesteaders.
From there, our hike took us farther downhill where we skirted the Q’emiln Park climbing walls. Trails from Q’emiln Park have long connected to the newly purchased land. For years, it wasn’t uncommon for people to illegally use the land, Myers said. I have fond memories of swimming in the river downstream from the dams with my mother and brothers.
For locals, the Post Falls Community Forest will likely feel somewhat familiar. Improved signage and trails, plus the security of knowing you’re not breaking the law, will only improve the experience.
We ambled to the river, coming out downstream of the smaller dam near the Trailer Park Wave put-in. From there, we walked along the river, passing a number of inviting swimming holes.
Although bounded by roads and rivers, Myers said there are a surprising number of wildlife in the area. On our walk, we came across several deer cooling off in the river. Myers has seen elk and another city employee came across a bear last year.
We continued to parallel the river downstream until we started gaining elevation. On the western end of the Community Forest, Myers said there is rock climbing potential with cliffs similar in size to the already developed areas in Q’emiln Park.
Once we’d gained the top of the cliff, we could see Corbin Park on the north shore of the river. Myers hopes to one day connect Corbin Park to the south shore via a foot bridge. It was a hot day and the water was tantalizing. At Corbin Park, families took full advantage of the river and the weather. Nearby a fly fisherman fished from the shore.
We finished the roughly 3-mile loop with an uphill climb, briefly walking on a paved road, and then passing through a clearing with spectacular views of the Rathdrum Prairie.
The trail system is in its infancy and it was not always clear where to go. But because of the geography, getting seriously lost would be hard to do. For interested hikers, bikers or anglers, the Post Falls Community Forest, while still a work in progress, offers more than 500 acres of enjoyable exploration all within 10 minutes of the interstate.
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