Grant will fund new downtown trail system
By Colin Anderson
Photo Courtesy of 9B Trails
“Excitement and maybe a happy dance.” That’s the celebration that 9B Trails President Tess Rae described from herself and the rest of the organization when it was announced they had finally received a nearly $75,000 grant that will ultimately help complete their flagship project: Riverside Park.
The application was 120-pages long and took Tess some three months to complete. She was up against statewide, city and county projects, as well as the Forest Service and other nonprofits eager for the grant. After making it through the initial screenings and a year delay from the pandemic, 9B Trails was informed in April that their application was under review and, on April 15, it was finally approved.
“In addition to the nearly $75,000 with this grant and $22,000 in monetary and in-kind donations required for match, as well as another grant for interpretative signage, the total for the project is $104,248.00,” Tess stated proudly.
While several groups have attempted to revitalize Riverside Park in the past, a lack of funding and resources often derailed any serious action on the area. Tess attributes 9B’s vision and tenacity along with amazing community support as key factors in seeing this project finally coming to life. “We started working on this project three years ago by meeting with all of the various stakeholders and [through] public meetings sharing our ideas on how to create an amazing trail system for the community. Since the new trail system is greatly needed, the community support has been tremendous. We received more than 20 letters of support (these letters can be found online at 9BTrails.org/riverside-park-trails) from individuals, businesses and local entities supporting this project.”
In its current state, Riverside Park is more of an eyesore than a recreation point. Some of the deficiencies include a lack of any developed trailhead or trail system, and no ADA access for the area. Cyclists have to share the road with motorized vehicles, and there is no signage, benches or designated viewpoints. The area has also been damaged by vehicle traffic, is rocky and muddy in places, and is in desperate need of landscaping and weed removal. Thanks to this latest grant and contributions from the community, it will soon have an entirely new look and feel, and Bonners Ferry residents will not only have another great place to recreate but have a beautiful natural area to be proud of once again.
Plans for the grant money include a new 1.85-mile connected looped trail system that will consist of three trails and offer new trailside and trail facilities for the entire community. The project also includes providing access to a nature pond for bird watching; three trail fitness station clusters for exercising; an information kiosk; interpretative and trail signage; viewpoints with benches; and improved access to a water trail along the Kootenai River for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. The new Riverside Park Trail System will be available for all users interested in walking, jogging, biking, skating or requiring ADA accessibility, and in the winter can be used for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
“These trails will offer year-round access and benefit a diverse group of non-motorized trail users, fitness enthusiasts and nature observers. Most importantly, this trail system will provide ADA recreational opportunities, currently not available, for all ages and abilities to use and to enjoy,” said Tess.
While there are numerous recreational trails on federal land around Boundary County, many are located at least 5 miles from town and are either in remote areas or up in the mountains. “For families with young children, the elderly, those with limited mobility or women traveling alone, those locations are not always ideal,” said Tess. The new community trail system now offers a rare opportunity to not only provide a safer environment for anyone, regardless of age, gender or ability to improve their health and to use, but also provides easy access with amazing views of the surrounding mountains, the scenic Kootenai River and District 2 farmland.
The new layout will also allow cyclists, pedestrians and those in wheelchairs to avoid having to share the road with vehicles, heavy equipment and logging trucks.
The trail is also a very short walk across the Kootenai River Bridge from the downtown business district, the Kootenai River Inn and the Visitors Center, encouraging those working or visiting to also access the trail amenities—promoting better health, well-being and quality of life for all.
More than three years ago, 9B Trails made this project a priority. Funds came in from generous community members, and the group is excited and thankful to have received so much help and support from locals who are just as eager to see the area revitalized.
Plans are already moving forward, and construction on the trails is in the works. 9B Trails is organizing several opportunities for locals to be involved with it as well. You can follow its social media feeds @9BTrails or reach out via email at 9BTrails@9btrails.org for volunteer opportunities or to follow the progress of the project. You can also visit 9BTrails.org for additional information. If all goes well, residents and visitors alike will be enjoying the park by June of 2022!