Actually, the history of the trail has its start in Spokane.
Back in 1908, the city parks director, Aubrey White, had commissioned the famous parks planners, the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts, to propose locations for development of parks, boulevards and play fields in the city. The Olmsted Brothers, developers of Central Park in New York, as well parks in Seattle and Portland, recommended that the city establish a large park in the center of the city along the river called Gorge Park. They also recommended that the railroads be moved from the center of the city.
Not much happened until the early 60’s when the city leaders began thinking of renewing the downtown and cleaning up the dirt and grime floating around the city from the trains around the Spokane River and the Falls. A young urban planner named King Cole was hired to lead the revitalization project in 1963. Cole began negotiating to relocate the rail lines and other businesses and proposed that the city consider hosting a world’s fair. The ambitious plan took 10 years to take shape and come to fruition as Expo 74 – a World’s Fair with the theme: “Man and the Environment.” The Fair was supposed to demonstrate how Spokanites had rediscovered their river. Fair backers proclaimed that this was to be the first environmental world exposition, and that Spokane’s plan would be at the forefront of ecological sensitivity. At that time the initial pathway of what is now the Spokane Centennial Trail was created in Riverside Park, with a master plan on the books to continue the trail to the Idaho border.
Fast Forward to the mid 80’s. The Washington State Centennial Committee began looking for ways to celebrate the Centennial and revisited the pathway plan that was on the book. By now, political momentum and state funding were in place and available. They reached across the border to a young Park Director, Doug Eastwood, with the suggestion to make a trail across the border.
Kootenai County formed a county wide Celebratory Committee, the Kootenai County Centennial Committee. It was decided to celebrate the Centennial by completing the trail and connecting Washington and Idaho with this gem. The committee started to look at where to put this trail and where to get funding. The plan was a bit controversial at first. Fears that the trail would depreciate property values, harbor crime and be a blight to neighborhoods, were voiced. But the committee persisted. By the time of the Idaho Centennial Celebration in 1990 the trail was well underway and the first 4-5 miles between State Line and Spokane Street in Post Falls was complete.
In 1991 the Kootenai County Centennial Committee evolved in to the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation, with the sole purpose of completing the trail from Post Falls to Coeur d’Alene. It took until 1997 to complete the trail as we know it now, connecting the 37 mile long Spokane River Centennial Trail to the 24 mile long North Idaho Centennial Trail from the State Line to Higgen’s Point.
Present Day Role of NICTF
Today the role of the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation is to ensure the preservation of the existing trail and raise funds to keep the trail in good shape, to work on improving the internal connectivity of the trail and to continue to expand the trail and look at it as a system.
Most recently, NICTF realized the opportunity to acquire a spur of the Union Pacific Railway and tie it in to the Centennial Trail. This led to the creation of the Prairie Trail that meanders through the Northwest portion of Coeur d’Alene.
NICTF works with many levels of government to City of Coeur d’Alene, Lake City Development Corp., and North Idaho College, to improve the connectivity and route the trail along the Spokane river.
NICTF has also worked with Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop a non motorized transportation plan for Kootenai County. “Within that we are looking at future class 1 trails which are paved, separated and non motorized, class 2 which incorporate bike lanes in a road way and class 3 designated routes on a low traffic streets, providing an efficient way to get between other class one or two sections of trail”.
Primarily, NICTF acts as a liaison between the community and the government agencies who do the day to day maintenance on the trail. “We provide feedback to agencies from the community regarding how the trail is maintained, managed, etc., as well as let the community know what these agencies do to keep the trail in shape”, continued Miller.
NICTF is also the advocate for protecting the trail, doing what we can be done to protect the continuity of the trail in light of the development coming in to the community. The Beck Road interchange was a good example of the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation at work.
Funding for the North Idaho Centennial Trail comes mainly from memberships and the three events that NICTF sponsors during the year. A new mile of trail costs between $120 – $200 thousand dollars from start to finish, engineering to asphalt. This cost doesn’t include land acquisition. Maintenance to repair cracks, root damage, and general wear and tear requires seal coating the trail, preferably every 5 years on a best case scenario –a recent cost of $164.000 for the Centennial and Prairie trails. Not a lot of money is available through private grants for this type of activity and state and federal level funds require cash matches. Hence the importance of membership and fundraising support.
The Centennial Trail offers multiple opportunities to locals – whether they are commuting, training for events, or taking the training wheels off a child’s bike. The trail system adds to the health and wellness of our community through locals being able to access a safe resource to stay healthy. The trail system brings sustainable tourism to our community, with event such as IronMan, Coeur d’Alene Marathon, Coeur d’Fondo and many local events. The trail system also enhances the overall appeal of our community and increases potential for young families to relocate because they like the life style within the community.
Volunteers are always needed!
NICTF is currently seeking volunteers for the Marketing Committee, Trail Development Committee and Marathon planning committee. Committees and committee volunteers are integral to the success of the Foundation and all help is appreciated.
Event volunteers are also needed. The CdA Marathon is held each year on Memorial Weekend. Numerous opportunities for assistance are available from being a pointer on the course, to registering participants, to providing music and entertainment for the event. Those interested in volunteering can sign up on line at www.cdamarathon.com
The 2nd annual Ales for the Trail, a Micro Brew Festival will be held August 16 at McEuen Park – sign up to participate or help at www.nictf.org and the 3rd annual Coeur d’Fondo – a ride around Coeur d’Alene Lake is scheduled for September 27th this year. Access information and volunteer opportunities at www.CdAGranFondo.com
The NICTF vision is to connect the people of North Idaho with an expanding system of trails with a mission to preserve and develop the North Idaho Centennial Trail System and promote non-motorized trail connectivity throughout North Idaho. Your support is appreciated.
Questions about NICTF? Contact www.nictf.org or call the foundation at 208-292-1634