North Idaho

Groups Work To Open Pend Oreille Lake Front Property

LAKE PEND OREILLE - Idaho - Several cities and a non-profit organization are working together to open up nearly a mile of private, pristine waterfront property on Lake Pend Oreille to the public.

The land was purchased by Sandpoint photographer Ross Hall, and his wife 45 years ago. It's belonged to the Hall family ever since. It's described as a hidden treasure, nearly a mile long with an exceptional view of Lake Pend Oreille.

The City of Sandpoint is planning on setting aside a little over $400,000 to purchase the first part of the land. The Sandpoint Mayor, Gretchen Hellar, says a deal hasn't been finalized yet. The hope is to increase public access to the last bit of waterfront property available to save for the public in Sandpoint.

The area under discussion is from around Humbird Mill Park to near the Montana Rail Link/BNSF Railway.

The land touches three cities, so the cities of Ponderay and Kootenai are also involved. The non-profit group Friends of Pend Oreille Bay Trail tells KXLY they plan on committing nearly $400,000 dollars to buy a part of the property to help with the effort.

Susan Drumheller, with the non-profit group, says there may not be another chance to purchase this much waterfront for the public again. She says people are using the land anyway but may not be using it safely.

She says, "They're trespassing on railroad right of way unfortunately, so we want them to have a safe way to get here and enjoy this resource."

Purchasing the land would be a four year process, costing a total of around $1.6 million. It's a cost to be shared among two of the cities and the non-profit group.

The Mayor of Sandpoint says setting aside money to buy part of the land would put on hold other city projects.

Those projects include moving city hall to downtown Sandpoint. It's a sacrifice Mayor Hellar says is worth it. She says she hopes "to keep the trail open for not only the citizens but also for visitors to our town."

She's hoping to have the legal documents by next month.