Dec. 22, 2021

Contact: Erik Brubaker, City of Ponderay, (208) 946-1761

Written by Susan Drumheller

Ponderay Announces Purchase of Lakefront at End of Bay Trail

PONDERAY – The City of Ponderay Wednesday announced plans to use local option tax income to purchase waterfront property, expanding public access to Lake Pend Oreille.

On New Years Day, the city will remove the metal gate at the current Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail’s end and celebrate the purchase agreement with a public ribbon-cutting and party, complete with hot chocolate and a warming fire on the waterfront.

The property is just over an acre in size with 100 feet of lake frontage, and sits between current city of Ponderay waterfront property and “Black Rock,” the site of a former lead smelter. 

The city has been talking with landowner Sandy Wolters about the potential purchase for years, but until recently, it was premature, explained Erik Brubaker, Ponderay’s director of community development and parks.

“We needed to know that we could afford the property and also that we were likely to clean-up the neighboring mining contamination at Black Rock,” Brubaker explained. The passage of the 1 percent local option tax in 2019 made the purchase possible, Brubaker said.

“The voters expressed lake access was a top priority and the city is making good on that promise,” he said. He also credited the hard work of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for making the pending cleanup possible. Idaho DEQ’s environmental assessment has shown that Wolters’ property is not contaminated with lead or other heavy metals.

The 1 percent sales tax is raising approximately $2.5 million per year so far, and will expire in 2025. The funds are designated for shoreline access and for the Field of Dreams sports complex, which is currently under design and development.

The Wolters purchase won’t be completed until later in 2022, but in the interim, the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail secured a $50,000 public easement from Wolters, which allowed time for the city to finalize the purchase.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating the expansion of the Bay Trail and to be contributing to increased public access to the lake,” said Dallas Cox, president of the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, a private non-profit organization. “One of the most common questions we get from trail users is, when will that gate be coming down? Well, now we have an answer – New Years Day!”

Cox thanked the businesses and organizations that sponsor the Bay Trail Fun Run for helping raise the funds for the easement, even when the event had to be cancelled due to COVID.

“The voters, the supporters of the trail, city officials, and Idaho DEQ – we all need to pat each other on the back for making this happen,” Cox said.

The purchase is important for more than just a short expansion of the trail, Brubaker said. It’s adjacent to the proposed Brownfield cleanup site at Black Rock, which includes an old slag heap from historic lead and silver smelting operations.

Black Rock, which sits on the shoreline, and the upland property is privately owned, but the city is also in negotiations to purchase that property. The city owns the property on the east side of Black Rock, which also has historic mining contamination.

The city has secured an $800,000 federal Brownfields grant to clean up the properties, but the federal funds can only be used for cleanup on city-owned property. The second gate, separating the newly acquired property and Black Rock, will remain until the city owns the property and it’s safe for public use.

The cleanup and property purchases are part of Ponderay’s Front Yard Project, which encompasses the Brownfields cleanup and remediation of the shoreline for public recreation, but also the construction of a pedestrian and bike passage under the railroad tracks to provide access to the lake from Ponderay’s neighborhoods and commercial district.

In 2020, the city was awarded a $1.4 million federal BUILD planning grant, which will fund the design and engineering of the underpass, as well as environmental studies, and necessary connecting infrastructure from Highway 200. The city recently awarded the contract to design and engineer the underpass to Welch Comer Engineers out of Coeur d’Alene.

Public outreach to solicit input on the underpass design and Brownfield remediation plans will be forthcoming, Brubaker said. In the meantime, the public can learn about the Front Yard Project at

But for now, city officials and Friends of the Bay Trail say it’s time to celebrate another milestone in creating a Front Yard for Ponderay that everyone can enjoy.

The “Toast the Trail” celebration takes place from 1-3:30 p.m. at the gate on Jan. 1. Until the underpass is constructed, the only legal and safe access is from the Sandpoint end of the trail. The gate is a 1.5-mile hike from Sandpoint’s water treatment plant at the end of Sandpoint Avenue, north of Sandpoint City Beach.

Party-goers are reminded to dress appropriately, and consider bringing poles or traction devices for their shoes in the event the trail is icy.

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