Monday, April 12, 2021
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Bay Trail reaches milestone and future looks bright

by SUSAN DRUMHELLER Contributing Writer
| March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Some trails meander around and fail to take the most direct route to one’s destination. Occasionally you may even wander down a side path until you realize that you have been led astray.

Building a trail can sometimes be like that too.

But then you reach a major milestone (perhaps a large cairn), and it’s time to take a break, enjoy a long cool drink and some salty snacks, before picking up and moving on again.

This past year, the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail reached a major milestone when we helped the city of Ponderay land a federal BUILD grant to do the design and engineering, environmental and related permitting necessary to build a railroad underpass to connect the small city to the Bay Trail.

The Friends partnered with the City of Ponderay, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ), Trust for Public Land, the LOR Foundation, Headwaters Economics, the Local Highway Technical Advisory Council (LHTAC) and others to collect the information, data and resources to put together a solid application – a process that took a few patient years.

The $1.4 million grant will hire the engineers, planners, administrators and pay for the studies, engineering and design to make the underpass “shovel-ready” and competitive for a federal construction grant. Given that the planning grant had the universal support of the Idaho Congressional delegation, chances are good that they’ll also throw their support behind a future construction grant.

The current planning grant also will pay for a study of the U.S. Highway 200 corridor through Ponderay to improve safety of that corridor and provide a connection from the Highway to trailhead/underpass.

Meanwhile, the city landed another federal grant for the planning and cleanup of “Black Rock,” the former smelter slag pile and nearby property contaminated with heavy metals from historic mining in the area.

The effort to restore this shoreline for safe use is called The Front Yard Project. Keep an eye out for more information about this community project to fix up Ponderay’s front yard on Lake Pend Oreille.

All this major activity is getting underway during the 10th Anniversary of the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail. The Friends have several new board members, and it’s a good time to sit back, consider how far we’ve come in 10 years, and ponder what our next priority should be.

We had hoped this year to be working with the City of Sandpoint to secure grant funds and build a set of rock or concrete steps in the Humbird Park from the trail down to the sandy lake bed, to provide a landing for paddle craft in summer and a safe way to descend to the sand in winter.

That project has been delayed, however, due to soaring design costs, requiring us to go back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, we have trail maintenance needs and other potential projects envisioned through previous planning efforts.

The Friends welcome trail users’ input on trail priorities, and plan to install a comment box at the Sandpoint end of the trail.

Also coming soon will be details about this year’s Bay Trail Fun Run, currently scheduled for Aug. 22. Last year’s Fun Run had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, but we plan to bring the event back – though later in the summer than usual.

So, in the meantime, please stay informed by signing up for the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail newsletter at our website, www.pobtrail.org, and check us out on Facebook, too.

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