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IPNF to implement Shoshone County 2021 projects

by CHANSE WATSON
Managing Editor | March 23, 2021 7:00 AM

Thanks to some newly acquired funding provided by the U.S. Congress, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is looking to tackle some overdue repair projects within (and just outside) Shoshone County.

IPNF Public Affairs Officer Patrick Lair explained in a press release that they plan to initiate 11 projects this year that will address deferred maintenance and improve visitor experiences at popular recreation sites — all thanks to monies from the Great American Outdoors Act and other grant funding.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced earlier this month that it will invest $285 million this year to help National Forests and Grasslands across the country address critical deferred maintenance, and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure, with funding established by the federal act. Part of that investment includes the projects on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

"Combined with grants from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, this year’s Great American Outdoors Act funds will allow the National Forest to begin improvement projects at recreation sites highly valued by the public, while contributing to economic development in rural areas," Lair said.

Among the 11 projects on the docket, the ones affecting Shoshone County include the Kit Price Campground Renovation Project, the Route of the Hiawatha Rail Trail Resurfacing Project, and the Shadowy St. Joe and Tin Can Campground Deferred Maintenance work.

Lair explains that the Kit Price Campground, located within the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River Corridor Priority Area, will be receiving a complete redesign. Known for its 150-foot tall majestic grand fir trees, which were some of the oldest in the forest, IPNF had to close Kit Price down after the severe drought of 2015, then again in 2018 and 2019 for hazard tree mitigation.

As part of the redesign, all accessible infrastructure will be modernized to fit relevant recreation use — including vehicle use.

"All toilets, fire rings, picnic tables will be replaced and renovations will include adding pull through and double occupancy sites, as well as meeting all accessible site size requirements," Lair said.

Shade structures are set to be installed throughout the campground due to the removal of tree canopy.

The project also includes replacement of the water holding tanks, that are only operating at 50% of their capacity, and a chip sealing of all road surfaces within the campground.

The GAOA funds will match a grant through Idaho Parks and Recreation (IDPR), Recreation vehicle (RV), for the complete redesign.

The second Shoshone County item, the Route of the Hiawatha Rail Trail Resurfacing Project, will have workers resurfacing the 1.66-mile long St. Paul (Taft) Tunnel, as well as improving the bottom 4.65 miles of trail. This process will involve shaping the running surface with a grader and establishing a smooth well-drained trail prism, then adding a four-inch base of aggregate to the surface.

"This will significantly decrease deferred maintenance, continue to create jobs, address critical health and safety issues, and provide exceptional customer service on this crown jewel," Lair said.

The Route of the Hiawatha Trail is a unique, highly scenic 15-mile trail that follows the railroad grade of the Milwaukee Railroad from near St. Regis, Mont., to Wallace, Idaho. Operated by Lookout Ski and Recreation Area, the route provides bike riders with experiences through 10 tunnels and over seven trestles. The Route of the Hiawatha was named a "Hall of Fame" trail by the Rail-to-Trail Conservancy — one of only 15 such designations in the country. It's visitation is now close to 70,000 and contributes significantly to tourism in the Shoshone, Kootenai, Benewah and Latah counties in Idaho, and Mineral County in Montana.

The final project is the Shadowy St. Joe and Tin Can Campground Deferred Maintenance work. Located within the St. Joe River Corridor Priority Area just outside the county line in Benewah County, the Shadowy St. Joe and Tin Can Flat Campgrounds will both receive improvements that will directly improve services to promote the health, safety and enjoyment of recreational users in several ways.

Lair explains that the Shadowy St. Joe campground will be redesigned to accommodate the current and future demands of the recreational user.

"This will include one pull through to replace a back in site, two double sites to replace two single sites, expanding the length of all sites to 60 feet, and widening roadways around corners to accommodate larger recreational vehicles."

All facilities and sites will be designed to meet current accessibility requirements. This includes all 13 sites (now equipped with electricity) having new accessible living spaces (fire rings, picnic tables) and spurs widened to minimum 16 feet.

On top of that, all of the current vault toilets will be replaced with three accessible vault toilets and new asphalt will be placed throughout the campground. A complete redesign of the water system is set to be completed as well.

At Tin Cup, which is normally used by smaller vehicles in more of a remote setting, workers will replace two existing toilets dated from the 1970s with two new vault toilets. Also, all 11 sites will be designed to meet current accessibility requirements with new accessible living spaces including fire rings and picnic tables.

Lair explains that the work for these projects will all begin at varying times throughout this year.

"Some of it will be completed this year and some of it will be ongoing. It is a large, logistical challenge to plan for and carry out all the work associated with these Great American Outdoors Act projects."

Some of the projects, like the Historic Route of the Hiawatha Rails-to-Trails Tunnel Improvements Project, will be more survey and design for a future project, so people won’t see all of the results on the ground right away, but there will be a lot of picnic tables and toilets replaced this year.

All of the projects were chosen by IPNF after they were submitted to the national office for consideration.

"They are projects the National Forest was already thinking about," Lair said. "In fact, we submitted many more projects than the ones that were chosen for funding. Our national office selected these projects for GAOA funding because they ranked highly across the region (Idaho, Montana, North Dakota)."

The chosen projects met the funding criteria by addressing deferred maintenance, improving public access and infrastructure at sites that are highly valued by large numbers of the public.

Lair adds that IPNF is looking forward to getting to work.

"We’re excited about these projects and we hope that others are, too," he said. "This is a once in a lifetime chance to update and revitalize so much of the recreation infrastructure. Special funding like this doesn’t come around very often. The IPNF competes very well for this funding because there are so many large, highly-valued sites, like the Route of the Hiawatha or Kit Price Campground. We hope to bring as much of this national funding to local projects as we can because our recreating public will reap the benefits."

The Great American Outdoors Act also authorizes funding under the Legacy Restoration Fund annually through fiscal year 2025, so additional projects will be forthcoming in future fiscal years.

photo

Photo courtesy of RECREATION.GOV

The sign welcoming visitors to the Kit Price Campground. The Kit Price Campground, located within the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River Corridor Priority Area, will be receiving a complete redesign.

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Photo courtesy of IDAHO PANHANDLE NATIONAL FORESTS

Photo of a campsite with the need for new asphalt, fire ring and picnic table at the Shadowy St. Joe Campground. The Shadowy St. Joe and Tin Can Flat Campgrounds will both receive improvements that will directly improve services to promote the health, safety and enjoyment of recreational users in several ways.

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