Opening the outdoors

Spirit Lake trail system grand opening today

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Marc Kroetch with the Spirit Lake Trail Alliance adds finishing touches after hanging a sign at the West Lake Trailheads in Spirit Lake Friday. The trails are dedicated for hiking, and mountain biking and will have a grand opening today with hot dogs, activities, and prizes at the trailhead.

SPIRIT LAKE - Spirit Lake has developed trails to more recreational opportunities.

The chamber of commerce and volunteer groups today will hold the grand opening of the 6.5-mile, non-motorized Empire Trails at Spirit Lake on the northwest side of the lake on Inland Empire Paper Company land toward Brickle Creek.

"We originally started to talk about this about seven years ago, and it's finally come to fruition," said Marc Kroetch, one of the volunteers who has been working on the project. "This is one of the ways we're trying to change the economic future of Spirit Lake.

"We have more to offer than bars. We are close to forest land and the lake and we need to promote that."

The grand opening will be held from 9 a.m. until around noon at the trailhead at the Silver Beach gate. To get there, drive past the boat launch on Spirit Lake Road and continue about 4 miles just past Silver Beach.

There will be various prizes for the first 150 attendees. The trails will be open to walk or ride mountain bikes, then free hot dogs and water will be served at 11 a.m.

The trail system includes five bridges and sweeping views of Spirit Lake.

"At one point, you're 300 feet above the elevation of the lake," he said.

The trails will be open seven days a week through the end of September.

The cost to utilize the trail system, including today, will be $2.50 per person per day. Passes are available at C's Train and Antique Shop, Sondahl's Pottery and Miller's Harvest Foods in Spirit Lake as well as at the trailhead.

"We were able to talk (Inland Empire Paper) into making it affordable to bring the whole family out," Kroetch said. "The money goes to Inland Empire Paper for using its land, but at some point we'll talk about revenue sharing."

Kroetch said the trails are the work of multiple groups and several individuals.

"We've been digging in the dirt for three years," he said.

Kroetch said the system may be expanded in the future.

"At some point, we'd like to connect it with the Mill Pond in town so you could go all the way up there without ever getting on the lake road," he said.

The new trail system is on separate Inland Empire Paper land that's open to recreational vehicles.

Kroetch said when the groups began exploring trail possibilities in the Spirit Lake area, a route from Mount Spokane on the Washington side of the border to Spirit Lake was explored. However, governmental and property owner hurdles forced the groups to look for other opportunities instead, he said.

"We've abandoned that (Mount Spokane to Spirit Lake) idea for now," Kroetch said.

He said the hope is that locals and visitors will consider Empire Trails in their outdoor recreational opportunities.

"It's a close-to-nature kind of experience," Kroetch said.

• Trail grand opening

There will be a grand opening event for the Empire Trails at Spirit Lake today from 9 a.m. until about noon at the trailhead, 4.5 miles from downtown on the northwest side of the lake on Spirit Lake Road.

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