BONNERS FERRY — Bonners Ferry has many attractive attributes to its residents, from quaint, small town feel, to the beauty of the area, with grand mountains for backdrops, and the impressive Kootenai River in the foreground. There are multiple restaurants to choose from, and large and small shops to feed appetites and fancies.
Across the county are many wonderful trails to choose from for those who want to enjoy the outdoors, but an area that has been lacking in trails, is in or close proximity to town. Two years ago, a group of people came together with a vision and goal to change just that, and 9B Trails was formed.
9B Trails, formally called The Boundary County Bike and Pedestrian Trail Committee, is a nonprofit 501(c) entity that is made up of outdoor enthusiasts. It works with the community to provide non-motorized public trails in Boundary County.
Goals of the organization include encouraging childhood health and social involvement through safe routes to school and enjoyment of the outdoors. They also want to further economic development through a connected trail system that will encourage tourism and growth. They are achieving this by working with federal, state, county, municipal and private entities. 9B Trails tackles all of the necessary stages of the planning, from design, through fundraising and land acquisitions, and maintenance of the completed trails.
The organization relies on volunteers to build the planned trails, which not only allows for someone to give back to the community, but also become a part of the legacy left behind. Numerous volunteers have already come together in projects, such as The Enchanted Forest and Section 16 — Paradise Valley.
The Enchanted Forest, located on the outskirts of Bonners Ferry, is more than 1,100 acres that will eventually boast more than 25 miles of trails. Three miles have already been developed, and they hope for another 5 miles this summer. The property came to them through the generosity of Xmas Hills, LLC and in loving memory of Caroline Farnsworth. It will be host to hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and snowshoers, offering year-round outdoor activity opportunities.
Volunteers in the community are coming together and working hard to make the dreams and goals of 9B Trails come alive.
“The reason I am on this committee is that when my children were little, I had nowhere to take them to ride their bikes or to run, except for the Refuge or the mountains,” explained 9B Trails Treasurer Tess Rae. “As a mom, I wasn’t going to take my children, in a stroller, and go up there by myself. It has always been so frustrating to me that our neighbors to the south, in Sandpoint, have all these beautiful trails, and then you come up here and there is nothing.”
The latest project, which is transitioning from dream to reality thanks to a $25,000 grant that was awarded to them from Urban Renewal, is the Riverside Park Project.
“From a safety perspective, we currently do not have any safe pedestrian trails anywhere close to town,” Rae said.
The 1.8-mile hard surface trail will feature lights under the bridge for added security, and it will offer access to the park, picnic benches, Riverside Pond and the Kootenai River with non-motorized boat launch. “There will be access around the pond which is really cool because there are birds and lots of things to see,” Rae said. “Right now the whole area is underutilized.”
They also plan to install Fitness Stations along the route, for people to stop and work out in a variety of different ways. These are modeled after trails around hospitals.
“Park/Recs approved the Park plan, including the Fitness Stations and Commissioners made a motion to approve the plan as well,” said Rae about their most recent developments.
In moving forward, 9B Trails has received several letters of support, including from Boundary Community Hospital and Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer.
Kramer wrote in his letter, “On review of the proposed plan it appears very well thought out with consideration for ease of use, safety and incorporating multi-use with a connection to water access for the non-motorized boating public. I see this plan as a benefit to our community, especially as our population is looking for areas like this to recreate and be active in walking and riding bikes.”
Boundary Community Hospital praised the plan in their letter of support, stating that it, “…is an excellent plan that will enhance the fitness of those who use the trails and park.”
Furthermore, upon completion, the hospital plans to reroute their annual Fun Run to go east through the trails in Riverside Park.
The Riverside Trail Project has already made great strides, working with the city, county and private entities, but much hard work still lies before them. Volunteers will be needed.
“This project is huge. We are so excited about getting this done,” Rae said. “We really want to get the whole community involved.”
The project revitalizes an old plan that had stagnated years ago. In 1990, Riverside Park was designed to be a waterfront park and recreation facility, located in the heart of downtown Bonners Ferry along the Kootenai River, and including a 2-mile, connected pedestrian and biking trail system.
Due to funding constraints, the trail system was never built.
“Therefore, 9B Trails has identified the Riverside Park Trail System as a crucial amenity due to its close proximity to residential neighborhoods, senior housing, the Hospital, the Visitor’s Center, the Museum, businesses, eateries, and hotels,” wrote Rae in a grant proposal. “This project will serve the community by addressing the need to finally provide a safe pedestrian and biking trail system, while at the same time preserving and beautifying the scenic qualities of the area and contributing positively to local tourism and the economy.”
9B Trails is seeking donations to help fund the trail system at Riverside Park because the $25,000 grant only covers an 850-foot section of trail, lighting and fencing.
“Since funding is currently unavailable, our volunteer financial committee is seeking funding support through donations from local individuals, businesses, corporations and granting institutions,” Rae said.
For more information about 9B Trails, its current and future projects, to donate or to volunteer, visit its website at 9btrails.org.