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KLT eyes iconic property for community access

by MARCY TIMBLIN Contributing Writer
| November 20, 2021 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County is experiencing growth at an astounding pace.

Since January, more than 500 parcels of 5 acres or more have changed hands across the county. This hit close to home last month when the historic sledding hill parcel on Pine Street came on the market, Kaniksu Land Trust officials said.

Part of the community’s story for over 100 years, the site ranges from lush forestlands to meadows and a large pond. The property has vast community potential amidst a booming real estate market. So in an effort to preserve the iconic property for the community, KLT immediately submitted an offer to purchase the property. 

“Historic farmsteads such as this are disappearing at an alarming rate. This one in particular, which serves as the gateway to Pine Street Woods, is very special. KLT is doing everything possible to acquire this land in order to conserve it and to share it with our community,” said Regan Plumb, KLT conservation director. 

The Pine Street neighborhood has been known to Sandpoint locals as a low key destination for various outdoor pursuits since the 1920s when a rope tow powered by a car motor was first established on the sledding hill. Since the early 2000s, neighboring private property owners have also allowed public access for walking and mountain biking on the Greta’s Segway and Sherwood Forest trails. More recently, Pine Street Woods was added to the mix in 2019 after Kaniksu Land Trust purchased the property and opened these 180 acres to the public for mountain biking, walking, skiing, picnicking, school groups, and more. This neighborhood, just west of downtown Sandpoint, has a long and rich community history. 

In 2019, the Weisz Family made the difficult decision to discontinue public access to their Pine Street sledding hill. Since then, the community has watched with anticipation to see what would become of this beloved property, the source of so many fond memories for generations of local residents. 

KLT Executive Director Katie Cox expects there will be competing offers for this parcel, but hopes that it can be preserved for continued community access and for future generations.

“We’ve always known that there would come a day when we would have the chance to acquire this lower parcel and reconnect it with Pine Street Woods. That day has come. This land has been a part of our community story for so many years. It’s hard to imagine just how many have felt the thrill of sledding or skiing down that hill. We dearly hope to preserve this story, and to add to it in the years to come, by acquiring this property.”  

In its first year of operation, Pine Street Woods saw some 20,000 visits, indicating strong community support for public access lands near downtown Sandpoint. KLT envisions extending the same community-centered approach that was adopted for the management of Pine Street Woods to this new property, should the purchase come to fruition. 

“If we are successful in the acquisition of this property, we look forward to inviting our community to a conversation about how the land can best serve our mutual needs.” 

In addition to stewarding its natural assets, KLT envisions this land as the perfect long term home for two of its newest initiatives, Kaniksu Folk School and Kaniksu Lumber.

KLT also hopes to reopen the Pine Street sledding hill to the public, citing the need for open access to recreation opportunities.

“For some, sledding may be the sole form of outdoor recreation enjoyed during long winter months. It is unique in that it can be shared and enjoyed by users of all ages and abilities with no technical skills or equipment needed. The prospect of bringing the sled hill back to life, with appropriate parking and traffic flow, is very compelling,” Cox continued.

If you are interested in supporting the conservation of this special property, please contact Katie at 208-263-9471 or katie@kaniksu.org.  

“This enormous undertaking cannot be done without important partnerships and a community of supporters.” Cox said. “I hope that anyone who has an interest in protecting this historic property will reach out to us. Our door is always open and we are just a phone call away. We look forward to hearing from you. Together we can make this community project come to life.”

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A skier tests their skill in this historic photo from the Bonner County History Museum. Kaniksu Land Trust is hoping to acquire the property, which is located near the Pine Street Woods.

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(Photo courtesy BONNER COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY)

A rare look the Pine Street Hill, once home to a community sledding and ski hill. The Kaniksu Land Trust is hoping to acquire the property, which is located near the Pine Street Woods.