SANDPOINT — The Pine Street Woods is a reality, or soon will be.
Supporters were surprised with news at Saturday’s Squatch Fest that the Kaniksu Land Trust had raised the $2.1 million it needs to buy the property and begin initial improvements on the site.
It’s been a true community effort to make the dream of the woods a reality, from donations from the Equinox Foundation and the LOR Foundation that top the list financially, it is the more than $300,000 donated by individuals that are the most reflective of what the project is about.
“We’re calling it a community forest for a very specific reason,” fundraising co-chair Jim Zuberbuhler said.
With the $2.1 million, the land trust will be able to buy the 160-acre property, expected to happen in January, which costs $1.8 million. Of the remainder, $100,000 will go toward a permanent endowment for maintenance and another $200,000 will go toward initial improvements to the property, including trails, signage, and putting a road into the site so school buses can access the property.
The second phase of the project will include an education center, and the Pine Street Woods may be in line to be named the International Timberframe Guild international project in 2020. If that happens, 40-50 timber framers from around the world will show up to build a timberframe structure on the property for use as the educational center.
Between now and then there is a lot to do, Zuberbuhler said.
“We’re going to need every minute of that two years to get ready with road, infrastructure, power, all those kinds of things to get ready for that project,” he added. “We’re just now getting a sense for what that’s going to cost, how big it should be, should it be enclosed, what kind of educational spaces do we need.”
The total Pine Street Woods will total 180 acres thanks to a donation earlier this year of 20 acres to the project by Lester “L.E.” Krauss, who had inherited property that his grandparents had homesteaded. When Krauss learned about the project, he surprised the land trust with news he wanted to donate his land to be part of the Pine Street Woods.
“That’s how it’s worked from the beginning of this campaign, just a couple of years ago, when we set the goal of raising this $2.1 million to buy 160 acres which is right next to the Syringa Trails, Sherwood Forest. That was a pretty steep hill a couple of years ago, pun intended,” Zuberbuhler said. “We thought, can we really do this? Are we going to be able to acquire that kind of acreage just two miles from town?”
However, it didn’t take long to realize the community would back the project and back it in spades.
“This community has provided the support to do that. The project netted the support of a couple of foundations, most notably the Equinox Foundation and LOR Foundation and then, in quick order, the land trust received grants from the U.S. Forest Service, Idaho State Parks and Recreation, Innovia Foundation, and the Idaho Forest Group, as well as a number of other smaller foundations stepped up to help us. Support has also come from Bonner General, Leadership Sandpoint, and Middle Fork River Expeditions, which donated a 24-seat, week-long trip to the trust so it could reward major donors.
But equally as important has been the money donated by individuals toward the project, Zuberbuhler said.
“It’s gathering up those small donations which is the real challenge but also the most satisfying part of the whole enterprise,” he said. “Over $300,000 of the $2,145,000 we’ve raised is from small individual donors.”
Education will be a big part of the Pine Street Woods and it’s a big reason why he and fundraising co-chair Katie Cox got involved in the project, Zuberbuhler said.
The trust’s education programs are designed to connect a community’s young people to wild places. While some programs take place in local schools, the Pine Street Woods site will allow programs to take place outside in the forest.
“Fifty-two percent of people in the county don’t get outside on a regular basis,” Zuberbuhler said. “We’re trying to change that.”
The chance to be part of a such a project is exciting, added Zuberbuhler.
“When I volunteered to chair this effort, that was one of the things that was so exciting for me, to be involved in something that’s going to be in place for perpetuity,” he said. “You don’t get to be involved in things like this very often.”
Zuberbuhler praised groups such as the Pend Oreille Pedaler and the Sandpoint Nordic Club, which have partnered with the land trust on the project, KLT staff, including Cami Murray and Regan Plumb and trust executive director Eric Grace, and community volunteers Susan Drumheller, who helped write grants, Equinox Foundaton’s Julie Meyer, Chris Bessler and fundraising co-chair Katie Cox, saying they all invested huge amount of time and energy and helped turn the dream of the Pine Street Woods into a soon-to-be reality.
“The biggest thing I have to say is thank you,” Zuberbuhler said.
Information: online, kaniksulandtrust.org; or phone, 208-263-9471
Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.