THE LEAF PROJECT
Latah Environmental Agricultural Fisheries Heritage
The Kampa farm site, consisting of 48 acres located just south of the Vinegar Flats neighborhood in Latah Valley, sits along Hangman Creek north of the Hwy 195 interchange with the Cheney-Spokane Road. On the east, the land adjoins the City's HIgh Drive Bluff Park. The land was farmed for several generations before it was purchased by JRP Land, LLC for potential development in 2004. In 2019, the Spokane City Planning Hearing Examiner granted a conditional development permit to JRP Land for a 94 unit subdivision project known as "Deep Pine Overlook", which spurred efforts by the City and others to come up with a plan to purchase the property for public benefit.
The property owners sponsored a tour in October 2020, inviting Spokane City and County officials and stakeholders from several area conservation and agrarian organizations interested in a public acquisition of the land, including members of The Friends of the Bluff. An adhoc advocacy group formed after the tour, called the Latah Environmental, Agricultural, and Fisheries Heritage Project (LEAF), and began meeting on a weekly basis to explore and promote public acquisition. In early December 2020, the City Council voted to include the LEAF Heritage Project in its Tier 1 Legislative Priorities for 2021, demonstrating the City's commitment to the process. LEAF's vision of expanding public access the High Drive Bluff trails system, restoring the creekside area of Hangman Creek, and re-establishing a working organic farm on the arable land is gaining momentum and building support. The various members of LEAF are reaching out to present the urgency and importance of a wide public coalition to manifest this unique opportunity.
JUST A FEW OF OVER 500 PUBLIC COMMENTS...
"I grew on the bluff & it holds precious memories of playing outside, seeing snakes come up & lay on high drive in the summer, deer, raccoon, possum plus other wildlife! It’s history that needs to be saved & shared with future generations! My Dad told stories of when he was a boy here! Spokane is a very special place! It must be savored & saved!"
"This is an amazing project and I fully support it! Spokane is growing and needs to keep growing as well in terms of public land and open spaces for all the people to go into nature. Our family goes to the bluff often and we love hiking all the way down to the creek and overlooking the farmland. It is so exciting to expand this area to vinegar flats and to allow the public to farm in this fertile valley! Interpretive signs and education is also awesome for all of us to learn more about the environment we live in. This is another step that the city is taking in making Spokane a greener, healthier, more conscious city to live in."
Spokane’s trails and proximity to green space is THE reason why I moved here. Visiting nearby farms and farmers markets has always been something my family mentions as their favorite parts of Spokane when they come to visit. As we imagine the future of Spokane, we must ask ourselves what is going to set Spokane apart from other cities? Will it be more housing developments and suburban sprawl? I think not. The LEAF plan embodies exactly the kind of visionary thinking that will benefit the Spokane of tomorrow.
"The local access to trails so close to my house is one of my favorite parts of living in Spokane. I spent nine years in the military and never lived in a place like this - it is a major reason my wife and I fell in love with our new hometown. More access to nature will be a positive addition to our community."
Imagine the conservation of this land into three areas of focus: creating public access to the City's High Drive Bluff Park, establishing a community farm and agrarian education center for the arable section of the land, and restoring the ecology of the creek and its shoreline. An interpretive center with signage and exhibits would provide a base for developing educational programs and highlighting indigenous fisheries, food systems, and history.
Public acquisition of the property would provide a single access point from the Latah Valley floor to over 30 miles of Bluff trails and complete the planned High Drive Bluff Trail System, connecting High Drive Park, Hangman Park, High Drive Conservation Area, and Polly Judd Park, and adding another potential connection to the Spokane River trail system and Centennial Trail.
Wildlife migration corridors and habitat dependent on the creekside ecology would be protected. Restoration of creekside would help address decades of environmental degradation and improve water quality in Hangman Creek toward the goal of re-establishing the native fisheries.
A key element of the LEAF vision is establishing a model for the preservation of local agricultural land. Building a center for community farming would provide a sustainable community food source, train potential young farmers, build connections with existing local farms, and educate the community in the value of protecting a local food supply. Protection and development of sustainable and regenerative agricultural land is key to long term community planning.
These three initiatives build upon the heritage of Latah Valley and reflect upon the history of the land, the indigenous communities who once thrived here, and the diverse community that exists today.
ARTIST'S RENDERING OF CURRENT CONDITIONS
ROUGH MOCK-UP OF LEAF PROJECT
WANT TO HELP EVEN MORE?
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Mail your donation to:
Friends of the Bluff
PO Box 30771
Spokane, WA 99223
Be sure to include a note about LEAF if you want your donation exclusively dedicated to this project
Spokane Needs New Homes, But Not Here
Hangman Creek, also known by the name "Latah Creek", begins in the Rocky Mountain foothills of north central Idaho, in Coeur d’ Alene tribal country, and flows 673 miles northward to its mouth at People's Park into the Spokane River. Locals gave the creek its name in 1858 after Colonel George Wright hanged Yakama Chief Qualchan and 16 other Indians along its banks. The Deep Pine Overlook property lies just down from the municipal Qualchan Golf Course. The creek runs through the City neighborhood known as Vinegar Flats, historically a permanent home of the Spokane Tribe, that offered people various food sources such as native trout, salmon, and mussels. Small farms, many operated by Japanese-American families, became prominent throughout the valley in the first half of the 20th century, as immigrants established a vibrant local agricultural community.
The Kampa farm's 48 acres are part of the City of Spokane’s only “Residential Agricultural” planning zone and was farmed for over 100 years before the family sold it in 2004. Most of the land where the houses would be built is classified by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service as "prime farmland." There are only 152 remaining acres of "Residential Agricultural" land within City limits. The JRP Land parcel accounts for 32% of that non-renewable resource.
While conservation of agricultural and open space land is spelled out as a priority in the City's Comprehensive Plan, less than 10% of Spokane County land is protected by public ownership against development, much lower than for the rest of the urban counties of Washington State and most other western states. Places like King County have closer to 40% of land mass protected by public ownership.
New residential development has exploded in Latah Valley during the past 20 years, amid growing concerns about overloading the area's traffic infrastructure and the need for City emergency services such as fire protection. Currently, over 1000 additional housing units in at least seven different subdivisions are in various stages of development in the Valley area. The Washington Department of Transportation has asked the City of Spokane for a moratorium on development, due to the dangers posed by existing traffic loads. Furthermore, the Deep Pine Overlook subdivision, with its central location and unique topography, has the potential of becoming a heritage site with unique community benefits not only to the residents of the Latah Valley, but all of Spokane County.
In 2016, JRP nominated the property for the Spokane County Conservation Futures program. Since then, it has climbed to the top of the acquisition list. However, the County's funding cycle ends this year, and there aren't sufficient funds available to purchase the property. In December 2020, the Spokane City Council voted to put funding for acquisition on the City's legislative capital funding request, yet the project is currently out of cycle for state capital funding. LEAF has initiated a public outreach campaign to raised awareness for the project, and other avenues for acquisition are being explored.
DON'T LET THIS OPPORTUNITY SLIP AWAY
The LEAF Project vision brings together a unique intersection of outdoor recreation, wildlife conservation, local sustainable agriculture, education and heritage protection. The opportunity for a public acquisition that combines all of these important values for our community is rare, indeed. It's an opportunity not to be missed. We need your support.