Group lands $75,000 trail grant

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Local resident Katie Cox, front, and her daughter Josie, far left, treat visiting cousins Zach, Josh and Logan Mann from Portland, Ore., to a hike along the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by CAMERON RASMUSSON)

SANDPOINT — The Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail is $75,000 closer to achieving its goal — provided they can raise the match funding.

The group won a challenge grant last week from the Equinox Foundation that stands to significantly boost their fundraising efforts. However, if members want to take full advantage of that money, they’ll need to raise another $75,000 of their own.

“We are very grateful to the Equinox Foundation for the opportunity to generate excitement and funds to purchase shoreline access,” group president Jon Sayler said. “Of course, we won’t get the full grant unless we can raise the matching funds, but we are confident that the community’s desire to increase public waterfront will prevail and it won’t take long to secure this challenge grant.”

The grant is a coup in the effort to secure nearly a mile of waterfront property along Lake Pend Oreille. Added with other pledges, grants and donations, the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail have raised a total of $125,000.

In addition to the Equinox Foundation grant, the group received a $30,000 pledge from the William Wishnick Foundation and a $4,500 pledge from the Pend Oreille Pedalers. Sayler said people and organizations from as far away as Iowa and New Jersey have contributed to the cause, too.

“We’ve heard from people all over the country who think this trail is something the public should have,” he said.

Once the volunteers raise another $75,000 in match funding, they will be halfway to their final goal of $400,000. That’s pretty good progress considering that members still have more than two years before they need the money in place.

The project began when Sandpoint bought the first of four trail parcels last fall. According to the purchase plan, Sandpoint will buy another parcel this year and then give Ponderay the option to buy in 2013. Finally, the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail will purchase the final parcel in 2014 and donate the land for public use.

For Sayler, the prospect of having half their goal accounted for within the first year of active fundraising affirms the value of their mission.

“We think that’s indicative of how much the community is behind this,” he said.   

According to Sayler, the grant is as much a test for the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail members’ resolve as it is a great opportunity for the future of the lakefront trail. The group can’t use any of the money members have already raised. Instead, it must use that money, along with a $25,000 advance from Equinox, to plan events and devise strategies that will grow their current coffers. Sayler is confident the group will mobilize effectively to achieve success.  

“This is such an important thing for the community that none of us can imagine not following through,” he said.

Even though the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail have two and a half years to earn that $75,000, Sayler said it was important to acquire the full amount as soon as possible.

“We might have two and a half years to get it, but we’re going to need that money to qualify for other grants and opportunities ,” he said. “We need to raise it as soon as possible.”

Residents have several ways to help the cause. First, they can participate in an Earth Day 5K Fun Run set for 8 a.m., April 21, by picking up registration forms at Sandpoint West Athletic Club or Sandpoint Parks and Recreation. Half of the $10 entry fee will benefit the trail fundraising efforts. The Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail are also raffling off two Festival at Sandpoint passes. Tickets for the June 2 raffle will be available at the Earth Day festival from 12-4 p.m., April 22, at the Sandpoint Charter School.

Alternatively, people can purchase tickets by calling 946-7586. Of course, that number also works for donations, too. Keep an eye on www.pobtrail.org for online donations and new chances to support the cause.

“We’re really gratified with the support and partnerships that are growing around this community effort,” Sayler said. “People understand that the opportunity to increase public access to the lake is something we can’t afford to pass up.”

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