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Saturday, October 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Study finds that Spokane is in top 50 cities for outdoor access nationwide

Ellen Picken, left, and Raj Bose hike to the top of Mount Spokane on Saturday. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Ellen Picken, left, and Raj Bose hike to the top of Mount Spokane on Saturday. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane has been ranked one of the best U.S. cities for outdoor access.

It was included on an REI Top-50 list in advance of Friday’s OptOutside campaign. The list was compiled using data from the Urban Outdoor Access Analysis authored by the Trust for Public Land.

According to the group’s findings, Spokane residents have 7.54 acres of public land within an hour drive of their home and 82 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

There are 127.2 miles of public shoreline within an hour drive of the city and 1.6 million acres of public land within an hour of Spokane.

Other Washington cities on the list were Bellevue and Vancouver. According to an REI news release, the analysis put “equal weight on the per capita acreage of public land within a 60-minute drive of each city and the number of residents that have a park within a 10-minute walk of home.”

“For us, it was a great opportunity to help build beyond just protecting place to connecting people to place,” said David Patton, the Northwest regional director for The Trust for Public Land

Although Spokane residents certainly have good access to nature, especially parkland, it’s telling that their access to public land is below the national average. According to the analysis, Spokane’s 7.45 acres of public land within an hour drive fall well short of the national average of 36.45 acres.

Averages are easily skewed by outliers. For example, Nevada is more than 80 percent federal land.

Still, less than 10 percent of Spokane County is public land. That’s a significantly lower percentage than other Washington counties.

King County is 51 percent public land. Yakima County, which has about half the population Spokane County does, is 36 percent public land.

Among Washington’s 10 most populous counties, Spokane has the smallest percentage of public land.

Washington state is 33 percent public land. That’s much lower than most Western states. As Spokane and the state continue to grow, development is putting increasing pressure on those remaining wild spaces.

That doesn’t mean Spokane isn’t a great place to live for those who want easy outdoor access. The ranking is useful for highlighting that fact.

Idaho provides an outdoor bounty. Canada is a few hours away and the Cascades are within striking distance. Not to mention the Spokane River winding its way through the heart of downtown, Mount Spokane or Riverside State Park.

But those amenities shouldn’t obscure the fact that the state, and Spokane, are growing.

As that happens, it’s paramount to consider how to protect the ecosystems and public lands. Building that kind of awareness was part of the motivation for the ranking, Patton said.

“How do we make sure we’re protecting and conserving lands that are most at risk?” asked.

At a meeting in Spokane on Nov. 5, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind addressed this issue. Balancing a growing population with conservation is WDFW’s biggest challenge, he said.

The stakes are high.

“And if we don’t, we’ll lose it,” he said.

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