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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on place-based stewardship education. Since 2001, a partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department (KNRD) has supported this newsletter and allowed us to expand class offerings through EPA funding. Further staff support comes through Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Many thanks to our partners and to you, our readers, for your continued enthusiasm for "digging" into the natural history and culture of this part of the world.

Getting to the River

by Carol Mack, Diggings Editor 2002-2013

Boaters are very fortunate in the variety of ways we can reach the Pend Oreille River. In some Inland lakes and rivers, public access has been a hotly contested issue. In a few cases there is currently no way to launch even a canoe or kayak without trespassing, though the water itself is publicly owned. The 22 access points that form the Pend Oreille River Water Trail provide boaters a wonderful choice of put-in and take-out sites, as well as some water access-only sites for picnicking, camping, and exploring the plants, wildlife, and history of the area.

Our fortune here is due largely to the foresight of our elected leaders over the years in requiring dedicated public lots deeded to the county as a condition for approving riverside sub-divisions. Of the 39 county lots created on the Pend Oreille River through this policy, many were chosen to include in the Pend Oreille River Water Trail because they already offered amenities such as boat launches, picnic areas or restrooms. Many others were excluded, at least for now, because they have steep banks, fragile ecosystems, or other potential hazards that need to be addressed before encouraging public access.

Gaining the support of the local landowners is sometimes an additional issue. While many neighbors see value in directing paddlers away from private shorelines or may use the local boat launch themselves, many others fear that publicizing the sites might attract noisy parties or create garbage-strewn eyesores in their neighborhood.

This is where the rest of us come in. When using these sites we need to respect the property boundary markers, pack out our own garbage and pick up after less considerate people, and report violations of site policies to enforcement officials. Good stewardship of these sites will go a long way to preserving public usage and creating new access places along the river in the future.

One great way we can help is by volunteering for the Pend Oreille River Trail Adopt-a-Site program. After filling out your "adoption" form, you will need to visit your chosen site at least three times each season to pick up litter and report any problems with signs, facilities or vegetation. More ambitious volunteers may want to work with the county in developing picnic areas, weeding or tending shoreline plantings, or even seeking grant funding for site improvement projects. Call the Pend Oreille County Community Development Department (509-447-6457) for more information.

Working together, we can keep our river a gem for all to enjoy...today, and for many generations into the future.

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