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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cementing permanent public access on Moscow Mountain

A mountain biker rounds a curve on a trail on Moscow Mountain. The flower in the foreground is a trillium.  (Courtesy Palouse Land Trust)
By Eric Barker The Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON – Moscow Mountain could soon see its first trails with permanent public access.

The Palouse Land Trust, along with the Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association and the Palouse Road Runners running club, have raised more than $40,000 that will help pay for management of two easements near the Idler’s Rest Nature Preserve. The groups are still accepting donations for future projects.

Landowner Patricia “Trish” Hartzell is placing a pair of easements on 57 acres there. Under the terms, she will continue to own the land, but it will be protected from development in perpetuity and the land will forever remain open to public access.

The land trust will manage the easements, and the money raised will pay for things like annual inspections, liability insurance and potential legal defense of the easement should the need ever arise, said Jaime Jovanovich-Walker, communications and development coordinator for the Palouse Land Trust.

The access easement on Hartzell’s land will allow the construction of hiking and biking trails that connect Idler’s Rest with other trails. Volunteers led by the mountain bike association will build a half-mile of dirt trail this summer from the nature preserve that will connect with Jack’s Route near Paradise Point. The group, with the permission of landowners, has constructed many of the trails on the mountain, which provides a backdrop to Moscow and is used by bikers, hikers, runners and berry and mushroom pickers.

“We have great long-standing relationships with many landowners on Moscow Mountain who have graciously allowed us to build and maintain trails for public use,” said Sandra Townsend, president of the group. “It’s exciting to see a landowner stepping up to allow that access to continue forever.”

Members of the land trust would like to see access easements catch on with other landowners. Moscow Mountain has more than 60 miles of trails open to the public. But 95% of those are on private land, and access to them is subject to continued landowner permission.

Easements are binding and stay in place even if the land changes hands.

“We hope this is just the first big step toward protecting a contiguous wildlife, working forest and recreation corridor on Moscow Mountain in perpetuity,” said Lovina Englund, executive director of the land trust.

The group has started a fundraising campaign to secure the money necessary to manage the easements on Hartzell’s property. Any additional money raised will be set aside for future access easements.