$1 purchase expands park
August 17, 2007
An urban-encrusted natural area jumped into view this week at Spokane County’s Holmberg Park when a perfectly fitting jigsaw puzzle piece fell into place.
The $1 price seemed “a little steep,” Mark Richard joked as he and the other county commissioners authorized the purchase of 56 acres through the Conservation Futures program.
Also this week, the county completed its Conservation Futures purchase of 385 acres on the north face of Antoine Peak, a 3,375-foot mountain between Forker and Campbell roads north of Spokane Valley.
The Holmberg acquisition brings the natural area on the back side of Holmberg Park, at Wall Street and Holland Road, to 104 acres. The new land fits neatly in the crook of an existing, L-shaped 48-acre parcel of undeveloped land.
“It really fills the gap there,” county parks Director Doug Chase said. “This is just going to be an outstanding amenity for the public to enjoy in perpetuity. We’re excited.”
Combined with the traditional 71/2-acre Holmberg Park, which includes a swimming pool and softball field, “it becomes a real full-service, one-stop shop from a recreational standpoint,” Chase said.
No development is required for people to begin passive recreational use of the natural area because Holmberg Park has a parking lot and restrooms. In fact, Chase said, people have been using the land informally for decades.
The previous owner of the 56-acre addition, who asked to remain anonymous, had posted the property only with a sign asking hikers to “respect” the private property, Chase said.
Treating the donation as a nominal purchase allows county officials to maintain the new property with money from the Conservation Futures tax program. Since 2005, the state Legislature has allowed counties to use 15 percent of the tax receipts to take care of land acquired through the program.
The existing 48-acre portion of the Holmberg Natural Area was donated in 1994 by the E.S. Bergquist Foundation.
Special projects manager John Bottelli said the natural area – which connects with the Little Spokane River corridor – is crisscrossed with hiking trails that were established by wildlife. Visitors may see whitetail deer, ringneck pheasants and mountain quail among other species, Bottelli said.
Motorized vehicles are prohibited, but hikers, bicyclers, snowshoers, skiers and even dogs on leashes are welcome, Bottelli said.
He said several miles of existing roads in the Antoine Peak conservation area will be open to horseback riding as well as other nonmotorized recreation. The property has a five-acre pond, views of Mount Spokane and is home to bears, elk and moose.
The land was purchased from Timberwood Ranches for almost $2.9 million, but half the cost is to be paid with a Washington Wildlife and Recreation grant. Timberwood donated five additional acres valued at $45,000.
The purchase was the first in a three-phase deal that calls for the county to acquire a total of 1,091 acres on Antoine Peak at a cost of nearly $10.2 million. County officials are optimistic that state grants will cover half of the total.
Bottelli said the Phase I purchase was “far and away” at the top of the priority list for state grant money because of the character of the land and its one-mile proximity to a city.
County employees will start work next week to provide access from East Lincoln Road, near its intersection with North Mitchell Road.
Voters will be asked in the Nov. 6 general election whether they want county commissioners to renew the Conservation Futures tax permanently when it expires at the end of the year.
The state Legislature authorized the tax – 6 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value – in 1971 and commissioners first imposed it in 1997, for three years. Commissioners reinstated the tax for five-year periods in 1997 and 2002 after getting voter support in advisory ballots.