SANDPOINT — A biting cold couldn’t cool the hearts of Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail fans, who turned out Thursday to formally dedicate the trail for public service.
A ceremonial capstone to years of work, the trail dedication followed the purchase of the final trail parcel by Ponderay last month, securing the 1.5-mile stretch of waterfront property for public use. The event served as both a celebration of the work achieved so far and a recognition of the hard work and donations from dozens of individuals. The biggest contributions were immortalized with the unveiling of the “Cairn of Thanks,” a stacked rock monument engraved with the names of major donors.
Despite the jubilation, Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail President Larry Davidson cautioned supporters to refrain from resting on their laurels. The property might be preserved for public use, but there’s plenty of negotiations, work and fundraising ahead.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Davidson said.
City officials turned out along with Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail members to commemorate the occasion. Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan, who worked as a council member in 2011 to authorize the city’s purchase of the first trail parcel, acknowledged the public-private partnership that led to the project’s completion, while Ponderay City Planner Erik Brubaker spoke about the significant impact the trail will have on the town’s burgeoning parks program. The city officials joined Davidson and Bonner County Commissioner Cary Kelly in a toast to acknowledge a successful collaboration.
That cooperative effort propelled the lengthy and sometimes controversial public process to purchase the four property parcels at $400,000 apiece. While many Ponderay and Sandpoint residents favored the project, others questioned funding a such an expensive project at the height of the economic recession. Fundraising efforts by the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and grants acquired by both the nonprofit organization and the cities helped smooth out the public process.
As Davidson noted, however, supporters of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail haven’t yet achieved their final vision. Organizers envision a day when the trail completely connects Ponderay and Sandpoint, but to do that secure an agreement with BNSF Railway and property leasee Montana Rail Link to establish an underpass.
For now, however, trail supporters are more than happy to allow themselves a break and some long-anticipated celebration. After all, it’s not every year a grassroots movement manages to change the face of a community.
An earlier version of this story misidentified the identity of one of the people featured in the toast. The story has since been corrected.