March 4, 2020
Public concern about the fate of farmland in Vinegar Flats is having an effect.
Over 130 individuals and organizations have signed on to our letter to City and County leaders asking them to take action to save the farm from development and they are responding. We are grateful.
Together we are moving the needle! As a community, we are closer to preserving this farmland than ever before.
Detailed Spokesman Review article on the Vinegar Flats farm. Read more >>
Aside from a house and a handful of farming structures, a 48-acre parcel of land near the meeting of U.S. Highway 195 and Cheney-Spokane Road sits vacant, as it has for years. Yet, the land referred to eponymously as the Pilcher property represents possibility to countless groups: historically farmed soil could be used as a teaching opportunity, a public park and alternate trail to High Drive Bluff Park. Hangman Creek could be a new channel for kayaks and canoes.
"All of these natural resource possibilities could come to fruition if the city were to purchase the land, and John Pilcher, the owner since 2004, would be happy to see it utilized this way.
Lori Kinnear, a City Council member who represents Vinegar Flats, said in early 2020 that she is hopeful the farm can be purchased to preserve the land for farming, open space and recreational access to Hangman Creek and the Bluff Park in perpetuity. Kara Odegard, Sustainability Research Analyst for the City Council, is monitoring this and Brian McClatchey, Policy Advisor to the Spokane City Council, is taking the lead on this topic for Council.
There is now a plan by City Parks and Rec and County Conservation Futures to purchase four parcels on Beacon Hill (see recent story in the Spokesman Review). Grants from the State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) could possibly pay the majority of the land acquisition costs for the Beacon Hill properties instead of draining Conservation Futures money on them. This would leave Conservation Futures funds in the account that could be used towards the acquisition of the Vinegar Flats farm and move the farm to #1 on the Conservation Futures priorities list!
City Parks and Rec and Conservation Futures are applying jointly for a Land and Water Conservation grant and a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Local Parks grant for the Beacon Hill project. Their applications are due May 1.
It will not be until September that we find out if the City/County grant application is approved by the RCO. It can be helpful for the RCO to know the community is supportive of grant proposals they receive in the form of letters of support (LOS) from individuals and organizations in the community.
We have drafted some sample LOS language favoring the Beacon Hill Acquisition proposals (see below). We encourage people who want to see the Vinegar Flats farm purchased and preserved as farmland to write letters of support for the Beacon Hill project.
If the Beacon Hill grants are awarded, then the Vinegar Flats farm moves to #1 on the Conservation Futures priorities list.
Now is the time for the Working Group to partner with the City, County and other stakeholders to start writing the grants to purchase the Vinegar Flats farm. Those grant applications would be submitted in May 2021.
We can really use this time and pull together a smash hit of a proposal for preserving the Vinegar Flats farm and stewarding it's rescued future.
Sample letter of Support:
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing you to express my support for the proposals being submitted by Spokane County and the City of Spokane for purchase of several parcels of undeveloped land in the Beacon Hill area (a Land and Water Conservation grant application and a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Local Parks grant application).
For years Spokane outdoor enthusiasts have enjoyed the generosity of landowners who have allowed public access for hiking and mountain biking on their private land on Beacon Hill, but development pressures have always threatened the existence of these natural areas, loved by so many.
If the proposals are approved, the threat of development would be removed from these parcels and generations of Spokanites could enjoy the open space and recreational opportunities available in that area even as the city grows around them. As development pressures increase, it becomes even more imperative that we judiciously conserve open space in our community. Conserving these parcels on Beacon Hill is a wise course of action.
Send your letters to:
Nick Hamad, PLA
City of Spokane Parks & Recreation
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., Spokane, WA 99201