News Archive

March 2019 Bay Trail Update

Bay Trail Ambitions Alive and Well
By Susan Drumheller

PONDERAY – Like a leisurely stroll along Lake Pend Oreille, progress on a Bay Trail connection to Ponderay may seem sometimes slow, and the destination far away, but the journey continues with purpose and appreciation for how far we’ve already come.

This past year has been a busy one for Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and the City of Ponderay. The Friends, which is a non-profit organization supported by community donations and grants, hired Panhandle Area Council to assist the city with two federal grant applications for needed funds that would help finance a railroad underpass from the shoreline to downtown Ponderay and also to cleanup Black Rock, a local landmark that’s contaminated with historic mine waste.

Ponderay is a small city with a very limited budget. Despite the presence of major retail businesses in the town, only a tiny fraction of sales taxes come back to the city because of the state’s revenue sharing formula. Without large federal grants or other major funding sources, it will not be possible for the city to construct an underpass or cleanup the hazardous materials present on the shoreline.

The first grant application was to the highly competitive BUILD program under the federal Department of Transportation (DOT). The city requested funds for planning, design and engineering for a pedestrian underpass – large enough for emergency and maintenance vehicles – under the railroad tracks on property the city owns behind the Hoot Owl Restaurant.

The grant awards were announced in December, however, Ponderay was not among the recipients. The good news was that our project was ranked as “highly recommended” by the first tier of review – the DOT’s technical feasibility committee – and may have been the only planning project with such a high ranking, according to a DOT employee who debriefed the city and Friends in January. 

The application did not make it to the next level only because it was not for construction, and the Trump Administration chose to prioritize on-the-ground work. But the good news is, this administration is prioritizing rural projects, so our reviewer encouraged the city to try again. So, the city and the Friends are currently focused on steps necessary to clear the next hurdle, “project readiness,” and apply again, but this time for a construction grant.

A few hundred yards east of the proposed underpass along the shoreline trail is the metal gate, where the trail dead-ends. Some of that property beyond the gate is owned by the City of Ponderay and some is private. As a sign hanging on that gate explains, Black Rock and the surrounding area is contaminated by lead and other heavy metals from a historic smelter that operated briefly more than 100 years ago. In fact, Black Rock itself is not a natural formation, but actually a slag heap from those operations.

In January, the city applied for a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the property and make it safer for people to visit. We are still awaiting news on that grant, and if it’s successful, the hope is to eventually extend the trail further along the shoreline.

In the short term, this spring the Friends is organizing it’s Seventh Annual Bay Trail Fun Run. This is the Friends’ signature fundraising event, which not only supports our non-profit operations and pays for things like feasibility studies, but it also brings runners and walkers together to enjoy this spectacular trail. The Fun Run is scheduled for Sunday, June 9, and registration information will be on our website soon at https://pobtrail.org/events/.

Also this year, we have plans near the Sandpoint trailhead to construct rock steps from the Humbird ruins through the jagged rip rap rock to the lakebed. In winter time, when the lake is drawn down, these steps will provide a safe way down to the sandy lake bottom. In summer, they’ll be a landing for swimmers and kayakers to get in and out of the water.

Rock steps are among several proposed trail amenities that are contained in the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Master Trail and Interpretive Plan, which can also be accessed at our website,.https://pobtrail.org/links/

Donations can be made online to the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, and those funds are being used to make small improvements along the trail and leverage larger grants for more ambitious improvements that will enhance the quality of life for people in Bonner County.

 

Susan Drumheller is President of the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.

 

2018 Trail Update

On a decent day, about a couple hundred people use the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. They jog, walk their dogs, stroll with children, take photos by the old Humbird Mill ruins, or power walk purposefully out and back from the Sandpoint trailhead.

Since 2011, when the City of Sandpoint authorized the purchase of the first waterfront parcel from the Hall Family, the 1.5-mile trail has been open to the public. The shoreline trail has become a favorite get-away for residents, workers downtown and even out-of-town visitors.

The Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail hosts an annual Bay Trail Fun Run to raise money for maintenance and improvements along the trail, and a growing nest egg to finance future trail improvements. Proposed improvements are outlined in the Master Trail and Interpretive Plan, and include projects such as increasing trailhead parking and installing steps in the rip rapped banks to make it easier and safer to access the water.

One top priority is to connect the trail to Ponderay and Kootenai with a railroad underpass in Ponderay. It’s an ambitious and expensive project, but necessary due to the high incidence of trespass across railroad property by people who are trying to get to Lake Pend Oreille.

The Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail has been working with the city and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to gather information necessary to apply for federal funding, including engineering studies, cost-benefit analyses and environmental documents.  

Recently, with funding from the LOR Foundation, the Friends hired Panhandle Area Council, an economic development organization serving the communities of North Idaho, to assist with the federal grant process. The ideal funding source is the federal highway’s TIGER program, but the future of the grant program is uncertain under the Trump Administration.

In preparation for a future underpass, the City of Ponderay purchased property along U.S. Highway 200, near the Hoot Owl Restaurant. The city and the Friends hosted a community celebration at the property last fall, to help build a sense of community and to raise awareness about the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and other community projects in Ponderay.

Ponderay Neighbor Day was generously supported by the LOR Foundation, the SPOT Bus, P1FCU, Schweitzer, Kaniksu Land Trust, Kootenai-Ponderay Sewer District, Keokee Publishing, Montana Shed Center, Cygnus, Northwest Autobody, Sandpoint Furniture/Carpet One, Waste Management, Ace Septic Tank Service, Columbia Bank, Idaho Forest Group, Pend Oreille Veterinary Clinic and many other businesses and individuals.

An estimated 500 people attended the family-friendly event, and the Ponderay City Council plans to host a second Ponderay Neighbor Day – with the help of the Friends and local businesses – this fall.

Other upcoming events that support the Pend d’Oreille Bay trail include an Earth Day Work Party on April 29 and the annual Bay Trail Fun Run – a 5K and 10K timed run/walk – on June 10. Check the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Facebook Page, or check back here on our website at www.pobtrail.org for more information.

Ponderay Neighbor Day featured lots of kids activities and even a celebrity or two.

Ponderay Neighbor Day featured lots of kids activities.

 

TIGER Grant Program – and Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail – At Risk

For the last two years, the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and the City of Ponderay have been preparing to apply for a federal TIGER grant to help fund a much-needed underpass for the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. Without an underpass under the railroad tracks, citizens of Ponderay and Kootenai have no access from their communities to the lakeshore and the trail. As a result, people typically trespass across the busy Montana Rail Link/ BNSF tracks to get to the lake from Ponderay or Kootenai.

Railroad underpasses are extremely expensive, and a federal grant is one of the only ways that Ponderay can afford to build one. The Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and Idaho DEQ have spent thousands of dollars on studies to help support this grant application, while the city of Ponderay has purchased property in the vicinity of the proposed underpass. We are nearly ready to apply.

However, the Trump Administration’s recent budget proposal calls for eliminating the popular TIGER grant program, essentially killing our project if Trump’s budget is adopted.

Please help us convince Congress to continue to fund TIGER.

BACKGROUND on TIGER:

The very popular TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) competitive grant program has funded more than 420 multi-modal infrastructure projects across the country – including all 50 states, both in rural and urban areas since 2009. The program spent more than $5 billion and leveraged billions of dollars to accelerate key projects that drive local, regional and state economic development. These projects aren’t eligible for funding under traditional federal highway or state funding programs.

The Trump administration has suggested that local communities turn to other programs to fund their projects, but those programs are not designed to meet the same needs as TIGER, which funds multi-modal projects, including trails. Projects that have been funded through the rural TIGER program in our region include a $10 million grant to Kalispell, MT, to relocate railroad tracks from downtown and replace them with a linear park and trail. In 2013, Missoula County landed a $4.5 million TIGER grant to build the Missoula to Lolo bike path. In Idaho, TIGER has funded complete streets in American Falls and Hailey, a transit center in Moscow and U.S. Highway 95 improvements.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

The budget proposal now goes to Congress and so we can still save TIGER.

Comment onlineTell Congress to fund TIGER.

Write a letter to our Congressional Delegation. If you only want to send one letter, send it to Sens. Jim Risch or Mike Crapo. Here are their addresses:

  • Mike Crapo – 610 Hubbard St., Ste. 209 Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814
  • Jim Risch – 610 Hubbard St., Ste. 213, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
  • Raul Labrador – 1250 Ironwood Dr., #241, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814

Or you can send an email  by going to the Senator’s website or using the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s online Take Action. 

TALKING POINTS:

Here are a few points to consider including in your letter/email:

  • First and foremost, ask them to fund TIGER. TIGER is an important transportation infrastructure funding source for local communities;
  • TIGER is very competitive with each project competing on its merits. As a result, the monies are spent very efficiently;
  • TIGER encourages local investment and has brought 3.5 other dollars to the table for every federal dollar awarded;
  • TIGER supports locally driven economic development opportunities. This is the kind of infrastructure program that improves the local economy and is sustainable over time;
  • There are virtually no other federal funding programs to fill the void for TIGER;
  • The TIGER program has provisions for rural areas, so communities in Idaho don’t have to compete with large urban areas for funding, but with other rural areas;
  • Mention the projects in Idaho that have been funded through TIGER;
  • Talk about the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and the need for an underpass to allow safe access to Lake Pend Oreille. Eliminating TIGER will likely put a halt to plans to one day provide access from Ponderay and Kootenai to the lake and the trail.

Master Trail Plan Finalized

After about a year of working with hired consultants, the Master Trail Plan for the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail has been finalized.

Check it out here!

This plan will help guide future improvements to the trail that could include interpretive kiosks that would help tell the cultural, historic and ecological stories about the trail, as well new amenities on the trail, signage and expansions to the trail. These plans also help determine the costs for any improvements and help raise funds for those improvements. Thanks to consultants Jen Zung and Randy Blough at Harmony Engineering and Design for all their hard work and thanks to all the individuals that gave their input.

 

Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Update, Winter/Spring 2015

Now that Phase 1 (the purchase of the Hall waterfront property) is complete, people keep asking us – what’s next? Does this mean the gate is coming down at the end of the trail?
The answer to the second question is, not yet.

The Hall family property stopped short of the gate. Beyond the gate is private property and Black Rock, which is also private and heavily contaminated with heavy metals. The fact that the property beyond the gate is private, and that Black Rock is officially a Brownfield site that needs remediation, means that trail users need to turn around at the gate.

But here’s a few things that are happening now to help determine the future of the trail:

  • Master Trail and Interpretive Plan: We were fortunate to secure funding to hire a consultant to put together a Master Trail Plan and an Interpretive Plan for the trail. These plans will help guide any future improvements to the trail, including signage, amenities and how to tell our natural and cultural history stories along this linear outdoor classroom. The plans will also help raise funds for those improvements. The planning began in the fall of 2014, and this spring we’ll see the initial proposed designs and plans from Harmony Engineering and Design and interpretive planner, Jane Rohling. Our Ales and Trails event, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at Laughing Dog Brewery, will give folks an opportunity to weigh in on the designs for the trail.
  • Brownfields cleanup: The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is working with the city of Ponderay and the Black Rock property owner to enroll contaminated properties in the state’s voluntary cleanup program. Once the properties are enrolled in the program, cleanup alternatives will be determined and funding secured to remove the contaminated materials from the site, or to safely contain those materials in an onsite repository.ponderay greenway and pathway plan
  • Lakeside Neighborhood Plan: The city of Ponderay secured funds to hire StreetPlans, a consulting firm, to come up with a “subarea” plan for the lakeshore and upland neighborhood in the vicinity of a possible underpass, or crossings, that would allow access from Ponderay to the lake and the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. The plans are conceptual in nature, but will guide a specific zoning code that allows for a certain type of development in that area. City Planner Erik Brubaker is trying to develop a plan that would allow for a gradual, organic development to occur, with multiple property owners, over time that would blend with the city’s existing neighborhoods.
  • Underpass planning: We are working with the City of Ponderay, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, the Trust for Public Land and URS/AECOM, an international engineering firm, to get a technical feasibility study conducted for two potential underpass/overpass locations for the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. It is our hope that this feasibility study will help secure the support of the railroad and future funding for an underpass.

So, as you can see, while it may seem to be a quiet time for the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, much is happening to eventually connect this trail to Ponderay and to enhance the experience of users of the trail. We will continue to need the financial support of the community to keep these efforts moving forward.

Our primary fundraiser is the annual Bay Trail Fun Run which takes place on June 7 this year.

Please consider either participating as a sponsor, a runner or a volunteer!

You can also give your input by completing this quick and easy survey! It’s actually very interesting with lots of wonderful archival photos and new design illustrations. Give us a hand and complete the survey before May 1!

Community Celebrates Trail’s Creation

Local elected officials and supporters marked the official opening of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail with a dedication ceremony. The afternoon events included short speeches by elected officials, the unveiling of the “Cairn of Thanks” (a stacked rock monument honoring supporters of the trail) and a toast to the trail. The City of Ponderay’s final land purchase in the trail corridor brought the first phase of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail project to a  successful close and gives the public access to 1.5 miles of waterfront trail. Read more…

Weigh-in on trails and open space in Bonner County

We know you are a Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail supporter. Now tell us what you think about trails, parks and open space in all of Bonner County by completing this survey.

Your feedback will support collaborative efforts by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), Idaho Conservation League and county and city entities to identify promising trail connections and fill gaps in our existing trail system and to expand our network of trails across Bonner County.

Additionally a Greenprint will be created that will identify community priorities for protecting important landscapes in and around Sandpoint and surrounding towns. The Greenprint will also guide efforts for protecting important land and water resources.

So, please fill out the survey today and we’ll help keep you posted on the results in the future!

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