On November 7, Kootenai County voters will have a golden opportunity to support open space and public access to natural areas. The Open Space and Park Development Bond would help the county protect these areas for scenic and recreational purposes, and would help safeguard clean water and habitat for fish and wildlife. 

We’ve all read the news about how fast Kootenai County is growing. With a population increase of over 7% (12,000 people!) from 2020 to 2022, it’s one of the fastest-growing counties in the Pacific Northwest. This rapid growth has caused community-wide concern about overcrowding at trailheads and natural areas, and the need to preserve open space for use and enjoyment by county residents and visitors. Rapid growth also threatens drinking water and the health of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In response, Kootenai County Commissioners have placed the $50 million, 20-year bond on the November ballot to let voters decide if they want to protect remaining open spaces. A two-thirds (66%+) majority is needed for passage. Goals of the bond include: 

  • Acquiring and preserving open spaces over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (the region’s primary drinking water source), which is threatened by high-density development.
  • Preventing future increases in traffic and congestion in areas that may otherwise be used for high-density development.
  • Preserving access to natural areas, complemented by developing spaces for recreational and community gathering.
  • Providing new recreational trail systems, open space play areas, dog parks, areas for farmers markets, and other recreational opportunities.
  • Connecting trail systems by acquiring parcels that will aid in linking existing systems including the Centennial Trail, Prairie Trail, Highway 41, and Highway 95 trails.
  • Preventing future overloading of area sewer treatment plants, potentially reducing taxpayer costs for future expansions of those treatment systems.

Based on current conditions, taxpayers would pay $8 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. For the owner of a home with a market value of $500,000 ($375,000 taxable value after Homeowner’s Exemption), the 20-year bond would see a tax increase of $30 per year ($2.50 per month). The individual taxpayer costs are expected to decline over the next 20 years with continued growth in Kootenai County’s economy and tax base.

ICL strongly supports the bond proposal, and we encourage Kootenai County residents to support the protection of public open space! 

Bond funds will be used to acquire open-space properties within Kootenai County and pay for recreational amenities. In other areas of the state, we’ve seen how open space funds, supported by county residents, have been leveraged with other state, federal, and private donations to protect thousands of acres of open space, far exceeding the initial investments.

Bond funds cannot be used to purchase properties not related to open space or recreation, or to fund other public works projects, pay salaries, fund equipment, or pay for other items that do not directly benefit or enhance open space or recreation within Kootenai County. Properties purchased or developed using bond funds cannot be sold or converted for other uses, and will be acquired on a willing seller-willing buyer basis.

If the bond passes, Commissioners will create an Open Space and Park Development Citizens Advisory Board to work with county staff and identify open space and park development opportunities. Advisory board meetings would be open to the public and Commissioners would have final authority to approve all expenditures. No specific properties have been identified for purchase, but there would be an emphasis on the Rathdrum Prairie, in the hopes of protecting the aquifer, which is the principal drinking water source for the county

Development and overcrowding are major threats to our quality of life in North Idaho, and jeopardize clean water, wildlife, access to natural areas, and Lake Coeur d’Alene. Because of this, we encourage Kootenai County Voters to vote in favor of the Open Space and Park Development Bond on Nov. 7. By dedicating funding to protecting open spaces, voters can leave a legacy for future generations. Check out the county’s website to learn more about the bond.

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