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Clyde Anderson, former president of Inland Empire Paper who brokered land deal for Centennial Trail, dies at 96

Clyde Anderson, former president of Inland Empire Paper Co. and a Washington State Parks commissioner, overlooks the Centennial Trail in April 2015. Anderson was key to the negotiations in trading company land to the state parks to pave way for building the trail along a 10-mile stretch of valuable Spokane River shoreline.  (RICH LANDERS)
Clyde Anderson, former president of Inland Empire Paper Co. and a Washington State Parks commissioner, overlooks the Centennial Trail in April 2015. Anderson was key to the negotiations in trading company land to the state parks to pave way for building the trail along a 10-mile stretch of valuable Spokane River shoreline. (RICH LANDERS)

Clyde Anderson, a former president of Inland Empire Paper Co. and Washington State Parks commissioner who played a key role in the creation of the 40-mile Centennial Trail that follows the Spokane River into Idaho, died at Fairwinds retirement community in Spokane on Saturday. He was 96.

“He was a heck of an advocate on behalf of public lands in the state of Washington,” said Cindy Whaley, who served as a parks commissioner from 2009 to 2021. “A real gem.”

As general manager and president of Inland Empire during the 1980s, Anderson helped negotiate land exchanges that gave Washington State Parks control of both sides of the Spokane River with 10 uninterrupted miles of shoreline for the trail to the Idaho state line. The company owned and managed about 110,000 acres of timberland at the time.

In his retirement, Anderson continued to develop and improve the trail as a Friends of the Centennial Trail board member and as a Washington State Parks commissioner from 1994 to 2006.

“His leadership over decades, really, is the reason the Centennial Trail is in its amazing footprint along the Spokane River,” said Loreen McFaul, executive director for Friends of the Centennial Trail.

In 2004, the Sandifur Memorial Bridge was built to connect the trail to People’s Park, a final river crossing needed to complete the Centennial Trail. “This is a great relief to have it complete,” he told The Spokesman-Review.

Anderson was a passionate runner and bicyclist who frequently used the trail.

Mile 23 of the trail, running above the Spokane River Gorge past Kendall Yards, was dedicated to Anderson in 2015. This fall, the friends of the trail have been adjusting mile markers to reflect changes and additions made over the years. As a result, Anderson’s mile marker was moved last week from Veterans Court on the north side of Spokane Falls to across the river near the southwest corner of Riverside Park. McFaul said this location will be more visible.

A plaque on the mile marker notes his honorary title “Commissioner for Life,” which he was named by Gov. Christine Gregoire in 2007.

As a state parks commissioner, Anderson was involved in various projects at Mount Spokane State Park, including to expand the ski area. Brad McCrory, former general manager of Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, recalled Anderson’s ability to bring opposing groups to the negotiating table.

He stayed involved long after leaving the commission, attending meetings and advising newer members.

Anderson grew up in Spokane and graduated from North Central High School in 1944. He served as a naval reserve officer, an aviation cadet in World War II and as a destroyer anti-submarine division officer during the Korean War.

Anderson spent most of his career with Inland Empire Paper, starting in the project engineering department in 1958. He worked his way up to superintendent of the Millwood plant in 1962, the company’s general manager in 1971 and finally president in 1985, until his retirement at the end of 1990.

Inland Empire Paper Co. is owned by the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Friends noted his kindness and ability to stay in touch. “He would call me once a month, ask how I was doing and how my family was,” McCrory said.

“He was an absolute gracious gentlemen, one of the kindest, most supportive people I’ve ever met,” McFaul said. “He led with his heart.”

“He was a kind, thoughtful, respectful human being,” Whaley said. “He lived his life like that all along.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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