On April 10 and 11, a contractor removed trees and built a dirt road on Spokane’s South Hill “Bluff” below High Drive along the bank of Latah Creek, sparking outrage from the many hikers, runners, mountain bikers and neighbors who regularly use the Bluff trails. The road sits on private and park land and crosses an Avista utility easement corridor. The understandably emotional response from trail users, conservationists and neighbors is captured well in this excerpt from an April 13 letter from the Friends of the Bluff group to the City of Spokane: “The unauthorized road construction on High Drive Bluff that occurred in the last few days is shocking to behold. Over a mile long, scores of trees downed, and huge amounts of earth moved, some on steep terrain, some less than 100 feet from the creek bank. This road was for a project not yet fully approved and was completely unnecessary because there is an existing road from the Qualchan driving range to the adjacent site of the proposed 3-hole golf course. This unauthorized act may exceed, in terms of human-caused destruction, anything to befall City park land in modern times.”

The city had issued a permit for tree removal for a pending project in the area, but reportedly there was never mention of a road. According to an April 17 presentation to Spokane City Council from parks and recreation department director Leroy Eadie, there will be significant mitigation and restoration. Experts and stakeholders planning to contribute to the restoration include Friends of the Bluff, Spokane Riverkeeper, The Lands Council, Department of Ecology, and several neighborhood groups. In the meantime, hikers, riders and trail runners are urged to stay off the road until all assessments have been completed, and the parties involved have concluded their analysis for potential litigation. //