On the eve of National Public Lands Day (coming this Saturday), the Sandpoint City Council did its part to improve public access to Lake Pend Oreille by voting to purchase  another 500 feet of waterfront for public recreation use last week.

The property includes an area the Hall family has used for years for picnics, camping and family gatherings. Originally, Ross Hall Jr. and his family had planned to build a few condominium units on the site, but last year, former Sandpoint Council member Stephen Snedden negotiated with the Halls to sell the property, along with three other waterfront properties, to the cities of Sandpoint and Ponderay. Altogether, the properties stretch across nearly a mile of waterfront.

Sandpoint purchased the first 200 feet of waterfront last year,  and the purchase included a lease for the other three parcels-opening up the shoreline to the public for the first time. Now, the option to buy is to be transferred to Ponderay, where the next two parcels are located.

Ponderay is looking at its options for purchasing the next parcel, a long narrow strip of waterfront that includes shaded portions of the trail, old cedars and cottonwood groves. And the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail agreed to raise the funds for the fourth parcel.

So far, the Friends have raised about $260,000 in cash and pledges towards their $400,000 goal.

The long-term plan  is to connect the trail to Ponderay’s neighborhoods through a railroad underpass, giving Ponderay safe access to its waterfront. The trail also will link into other trails and bike paths that are in the works in Ponderay with new street and highway projects, creating a network that will connect the hearts of these communities with what makes this place so special-Lake Pend Oreille.