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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County to purchase 231 acres for trails, habitat preservation

Spokane County is purching the Etter Ranch for its Conservation Futures Program. (SR)

Spokane County is purchasing more than 231 acres of land south of the Antoine Peak Conservation Area that will provide hiking trails and preserve wildlife habitat.

County commissioners approved a sale agreement last week with property owners James and Billie Etter for the site northeast of Flora Road and Wellesley Avenue in Spokane Valley.

The $2 million sale of the Etter Ranch site is expected to close May 24.

“The property owners have owned the land for a couple decades, and they really just love this property,” said Paul Knowles, special project manager for the county parks department. “I think they thought the best outcome is to see this property sold and preserved through the Conservation Futures Program.”

Etter Ranch has long been a desired property for the county’s Conservation Futures Program. The Conservation Futures Land Evaluation Committee, consisting of volunteers, nominated 38 properties for acquisition in 2016, ranking the property third on the list, Knowles said.

“This property checked off a lot of the boxes that make a successful Conservation Futures property,” he said, noting its connectivity to public lands and a year-round spring located on the site.

The properties are nominated by property owners through an application process. The land evaluation committee tours and evaluates the properties, considering size, water resources, connectivity to public lands and wildlife habitat. The list is approved by county commissioners and land is acquired as funding becomes available.

The Conservation Futures Program has acquired more than 8,875 acres of land since its inception in 1994. The acquisitions are funded through a voter-approved property tax levy to preserve the county’s open space, streams, rivers and natural resources.

Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone said the Etter Ranch property will benefit both county and Spokane Valley residents.

The property is adjacent to Spokane Valley city limits at Flora and Wellesley.

“The county has been able to create some wonderful spaces for our citizens to use, and have done a wonderful job of amassing and preserving resources by the public,” he said. “I wish the Valley had property like this within our boundaries, but by virtue of the county, who acquired the property, it will be a wonderful recreational opportunity for our citizens to enjoy.”

The Etter Ranch site will be funded through a three-year loan from the county treasurer’s office, which was used to expedite the sale and will be paid off as revenues are generated through the Conservation Futures tax.

“I think this property is another awesome addition to our parks system here in Spokane County, and besides providing the obvious recreational benefit of a potential new trailhead and trail that will essentially go from the Valley floor to Antoine Peak, it preserves the whitetail deer habitat and is really a nice addition to the parks system,” Knowles said.