RATHDRUM — A sweeping view of the Rathdrum Prairie caused Leon Duce to stop along a logging road on Rathdrum Mountain.
"This is why the public can't wait to get up here," Rathdrum's city administrator said Thursday, referring to the city's 556 acres, which it plans to develop into a low-impact recreation area.
The peaceful setting less than a mile from city limits also includes meandering streams, a plethora of wildflowers, giant cedar and pine trees, wildlife trails, open greenspace for picnic tables, overlooks and shelters and wildlife including moose, turkeys and other animals.
"There's already natural trails, so we'll capitalize on those (for walking paths)," Duce said. "It's rare for a city to have this type of property."
The public on Saturday will be offered its first sneak peek of the site when buses leave from Lakeland High School at 8 a.m. and return at 11 a.m. Attendees will help plant Ponderosa pine seedlings during the free outing as part of a community Arbor Day celebration.
"It's a nice opportunity for us to replenish the trees that have been harvested, and there have been very few people who have had the chance to go up there," Duce said. "It's a win-win."
The site will remain closed until the first parking lot on the lower part of the property is constructed — this fall at the earliest. Walking trails and picnic areas are planned for the day-use-only property. It will not be open to ATVs and other off-road motorized vehicles.
"We want to conserve the natural beauty as much as possible," Duce said.
The city's goal was to open the property to the public this fall, but that’s iffy with construction of the 25-space parking lot in limbo.
Duce said the city received just two bids for the project — one was more than $300,000 and the other more than $600,000. Both were well over the engineer's estimate of $200,000 to $250,000.
The response, likely a sign of the busy construction market, forced the city back to the drawing board with how the project is bid, Duce said.
The city now plans to go to bid in about two weeks on a combined project that includes the parking lot with widening of Barrett Road.
"We're trying to develop the property just one phase at a time to make sure we're financially responsible with the funds that we have," Duce said. "We'll also have to expand the window of time to do the job (with the bid) and, with that, we may not be able to have the public up there this fall."
The project is being funded with money from the timber harvest of the property. Earthwork was performed last fall to prepare for the widening of Barrett to meet highway district standards. A second small parking lot is planned near the center of the property.
A few years ago, the city gained access to its site after a nearly 20-year fight with adjacent landowners. The Post Falls Highway District validated Barrett, formerly named Foster Road, as a county road, allowing the city access. Since then, the city conducted several public meetings on how to use and develop the site.
Pre-registration for Saturday's seedling planting and preview outing on the mountain is required. Sign up at www.rathdrum.org/mountain, call 687-2399 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bring gloves and a garden or spade shovel. The bus rides are being offered because there isn't sufficient parking at the site for individual vehicles.
"We invite residents to give back to Rathdrum Mountain," Duce said. "We want both local citizens and people from around the world to be able to enjoy it."
Explore Rathdrum Mountain, plant seedlings
The city of Rathdrum is offering free bus rides to its site on Rathdrum Mountain on Saturday at 8 a.m. The outing will include planting of seedlings and a chance to explore the property that will be developed into a low-impact recreation area. To register and view a short planting video, visit www.rathdrum.org/mountain. Pre-registration is required for the free event. Those interested can also call 687-2399 or email email@example.com. The event will end at 11 a.m. Bring gloves and a spade or shovel.