Our View: Antoine Peak land would be valuable asset —

Our View: Antoine Peak land would be valuable asset

EDITORIAL © Sept. 21, 2006 The Spokesman-Review

September 21, 2006

Not everyone likes to traipse to the top of a mountain peak and gaze at the scenery.

Nor does everyone like to sit at rinkside hollering for the local hockey team. Or settle into the balcony seats and enjoy the Spokane Symphony perform Brahms' Requiem.

But those and other entertainment and recreational attractions all have substantial followers, and a community that supplies outlets for varied interests is a community that makes good on its "quality of life" promises.

So if the important news that Spokane County's conservationists are expecting this week comes to pass, it will be something for the whole community to celebrate, even those who never set foot on Antoine Peak.

Today and Friday, the Washington Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation meets to approve a prioritized list of park, trail and habitat acquisitions that need state funding. Antoine Peak, a 3,375-foot mountain in the Spokane Valley, is the choicest of several Spokane County proposals in the running.

Naturally, there's not enough money to go around, but Antoine Peak is atop the preliminary list in the urban wildlife habitat category. If things stay that way, it would be among the projects the Interagency Committee sends to the Legislature next year with a recommendation for funding.

This coveted landscape offers more than a panorama of the surrounding area, which includes Spokane, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake plus the hills and forests beyond. And more than the recreational opportunities that hikers, bikers, skiers and horseback riders cherish. And more than the habitat that sustains elk, moose, bear and other species.

All those qualities are valuable in their own right, but it's rare to find them within a mile of an urban growth boundary, according to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for parks, farms and habitat. The proximity of an outdoors gem to a population center is an asset for area residents and a selling point when recruiting businesses and tourism.

Officially, the deal still will need formal approval by the current owners, Spokane County commissioners and the Legislature. And the acquisition under consideration is only the first 385 acres of a desired area three times that size. Half the nearly $3 million price would come from the state, the other half from the locally collected Conservation Futures fund.

Without reasonable funding sources, opportunities such as Antoine Peak might well be out of reach. Thanks to the vision of such leaders as former Govs. Dan Evans and Mike Lowry, who founded the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, and the civic responsibility of Spokane County voters who approved the Conservation Futures fund, they are within reach.

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