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Public hearing for proposed bike park April 17

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | April 2, 2024 1:00 AM

SAGLE — A public hearing date has been set for the proposed 170-acre bike park outside Sagle that is dividing many in the community.

The proposed bike park, located off of Five Lakes Estates Road, would consist of numerous mountain bike trails, a camping area and a helicopter evacuation area in case of any accidents. A public hearing is set for April 17, where county residents will have a chance to speak on the proposal.

The parcel of land was recently purchased by Scott and Jennifer Kalbach, who thought it would be a great spot to create Scott’s lifelong dream of creating a “mountain bike town.”

The park will not only consist of bike trails but will also offer rentals for those who want to get into the sport but do not own their own equipment. In addition to dispersed campsites, a small restroom and shower facility will be provided, as well as communal outdoor gathering areas for guests to interact with each other off the trails. Occasional food trucks or other food services will be provided depending on availability.

“The trails will service a variety of rider skills that will be accessed and maintained via historic logging roads on the property,” said Jeremy Grimm, Sandpoint mayor and president of Whiskey Rock Planning and Consulting, who wrote the Kalbach’s conditional use permit application. “Occasional small-scale events are also expected, including but not limited to customary types such as regional races, bike demos and area biking club activities.”

The conditional use permit stated the plan is for the park to be open to the public during daylight hours every day of the week. The park is expected to have two shuttle trucks or buses in operation to transport guests from the parking area to the trail systems, each holding roughly 20 mountain bikers and their gear.

A fee would be required for the use of the facility, although it has not been stated how much that fee will be.

“Trail construction will start May 1 of 2024,” the Kalbachs said on their website. “We plan to build about half of the trails in 2024 and the other half in 2025. Our goal is to open operations to the public in the spring of 2025.”

A few locals have already shared their excitement about the park online.

“This seems pretty cool,” one county resident wrote online. “Not to mention people coming into the town will help put money into the community. I think this is awesome.”

However, many others do not seem thrilled with the idea.

“Who is going to clean up the garbage left behind?” a county resident wrote in a Facebook comment about the park. “Put this somewhere else. Find someone else’s backyard to make a bike track.”

“Mountain biking is a great outdoor activity, but I could see this turning our rural area into a traffic-filled nightmare for the people that live close by,” another said.

Not all Bonner County residents share the same dread for the proposal, though. Avid mountain biker Grafton Pannell said he is excited for the change that the park could bring to North Idaho.

“I think that the Sagle bike park has the potential to fill a huge void in Bonner County’s trail system,” he said. “Schweitzer offers some awesome lift access riding, but the terrain is rocky and some of the trails are a bit outdated.”

Pannell said the proposed location for the Sagle park is a great area for technical trails. The north-facing parcel of land, he added, will provide “tacky dirt” for much longer than some of North Idaho’s other trail systems.

In regard to concerns that park visitors won’t pick up after themselves, Pannell said he doesn’t think that is the kind of crowd the site will attract.

“I think the majority of the patrons are likely to be regional residents and the tourists it does draw in will be the kind that strive to leave this place better than they found it,” he said.

The public hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. April 17 at the Bonner County Administration Building. Written comments will be accepted but must be submitted by April 10. Comments can be emailed to planning@bonnercountyid.gov or mailed to the Planning Department at 1500 Highway 2, Suite 208; Sandpoint, ID 83864.