Coveted rural property in and around the Spokane Valley area is nothing new.
But, as Spokane County’s Conservation Futures program gets a narrower focus, some of that land has just gotten more desirable than others.
Out of 36 nominated properties, some in the Valley are considered to be more desired “gets” for public open-space under the program, which seeks to protect open space and wildlife habitats from development. In a new top-10 list, which was presented to Spokane County commissioners last week, four are in this area while others are nearby.
On Tuesday night, the council’s made that decision official in a unanimous decision.
Topping the list is a 590-acre parcel near Long Lake. The area, known as Knights Lake, includes shoreline property and available from the Department of Natural Resources.
The second to fifth most-desired properties are in this area. They include properties in Dishman Hills (160 acres), Antoine Peak, Mica Peak and Saltese Flats (555 acres). Further down the list is land at Williams Lake, Peone Prairie and at Indian Bluff. Two others at Beacon Hill, northwest of Spokane Valley, cap the list.
On Dec. 5, Doug Chase, county parks director, told the commissioners that his department used to sift through selected properties on various priority lists. This time around, however – unless new opportunities present themselves – the plan is to work down starting with the Knight’s Lake property. Negotiations for the properties, which are often obtained far below commercial market value, can sometimes take years.
Currently, there is just under $2 million available in the Conservation Futures fund for land purchases in 2011. The money comes from a voter-approved property tax that raises 6 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value which is ten turned around to buy underdeveloped timberlands, wetlands, species habitats, and agricultural and farm lands. Simple-majority elections in 1994 and 1997 were passed overwhelmingly, as was a 2007 vote that made the Conservation Futures program permanent.
The program has already acquired 24 properties, totaling 5,057 acres, for $19.3 million. The county paid $14.5 million of that amount, while grants were acquired to cover the rest of the cost.
The commissioners said they continue to support a “pay as you go” approach rather than bond debt.
Last year, Spokane County purchased 320 acres from Timberwood Ranches LLC at Antoine Peak, a 3,375-foot mountain between Lincoln and Forker Roads. The area has views of Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley and has several miles of existing roads and trails open to nonmotorized recreationists such as hikers, bikers, skiers and horseback riders. It’s also the home to moose, elk, bear and other species.
The Washington state Recreation and Conservation Office awarded Spokane County two grants totaling nearly $1.9 million to purchase additional land around Antoine Peak and to realign part of the Centennial Trail.