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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Kaniksu Land Trust saves historic sledding hill near Sandpoint

Sandpoint winter recreationists will continue to have access to a hill used for sledding and skiing since the 1940s thanks to an Idaho land conservancy.

The Kaniksu Land Trust has bought the Pine Street Sled Hill and will keep it open for the public to enjoy in perpetuity.

“It is the one awesome sled hill in our region,” Kaniksu director Katie Cox said.

When the land went up for sale, a group of anonymous donors stepped in and bought the property to hold it until the land trust was able to raise enough funds.

The $2.1 million goal has been met and the hill reopened for sledding last month. The trust is waiting on some grant funding to finalize the purchase.

The largest grant is $600,000 from the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest Program. Much of the other funding came from private donors.

“This is a beautiful tale of a town banding together to save their sledding hill,” Cox said.

The 48-acre property will complement a network of adjacent community forest and public access trails, including Kaniksu’s 180-acre Pine Street Woods.

The City of Dover approved a low-impact use permit that allows the public to use the property at 11735 West Pine Street while Kaniksu develops a master plan.

The 250-foot hill in the woods just west of Sandpoint started as a ski slope with permission from the owner, Kaniksu Communications Director Marcy Timblin said. Skiers who used the hill made improvements and built a rope tow. It turned into more of a sledding hill after Schweitzer Mountain Resort opened in the 1960s.

Around that time, farmer and logger Joseph Weisz purchased the property and continued the tradition of allowing the public to use it.

Generations of Bonner County residents grew up with the hill and brought their children and grandchildren there, Cox said.

In 2019, Weisz sold a portion of the homestead to Kaniksu that formed the Pine Street Woods area.

The hill closed in 2020 as Weisz was aging and becoming more concerned about liability. He died in 2021 at the age of 95.

A grand reopening in mid-January lined up nicely with a big snow fall and a snow day from school, Timblin said. Families brought their children to celebrate.

“It is so heartwarming to drive up there and see people on that hill again,” Timblin said.

With the subsequent warmer weather, the hill has closed again until the next snowfall.

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.