Imagine that you live in Dover and want to go shopping in Ponderay. It's a nice day, so you hop on your bicycle and pedal on down the bike path. Pipe dream?
Not to volunteers at North Idaho Pathways, a non-profit organization formed in '94 to develop a bike/walking path system for Bonner and Boundary counties.
The group's vision for the Sandpoint area includes bike lanes on many main streets and roads, widened shoulders on highways through both counties, and a network of bike/pedestrian paths joining Sagle, Sandpoint, Dover, Ponderay and Kootenai. They have drafted a master plan for the whole of Bonner County.
A nearly completed section of pathway from Sagle Road north along the east side of Highway 95 to Linscott Road is phase one of the group's first on-the-ground goal, connecting the Long Bridge bike path to Sagle Road. A mile of bike/pedestrian path carries a price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars, but Pathways has relied on volunteer muscle and material. Pathways spokeswoman Angela Potts counts off on her fingers people and companies who donated. The group spent just $6,000 on that first mile, funded with grants and donations from Bonner County Realtors, Chamber Ambassador Members of Sandpoint (CAMS), the Sandpoint Lions Club, the Community Assistance League, and $1,600 raised in a food booth at the Festival at Sandpoint. The new Sagle stretch now only needs paving.
After completion of the Sagle corner to Bottle Bay Road segment, Pathways will start working on a path that begins at the east end of Bridge Street in Sandpoint, near City Beach. It will follow north along the east side of Sand Creek, go under the bridge across Sand Creek at the Highway 95 and 200 intersection north of Sandpoint, and end up at the Canyon Mall in Ponderay, across from the Bonner Mall.
Besides helping to provide clean alternative transportation, bike paths can be good for the tourist economy, Potts points out. In the winter, a cross-country ski trail system emerges.
Pathways has applied to Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation for a matching funds grant of $89,000 to continue their work on the section between Sagle Road and the Long Bridge bike path. The final decision on that grant will be reached this year.
For more information about North Idaho Pathways (known as North Idaho Bikeways as of June 1998), call Angela Potts at 208/265-9690, or visit their home page.
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