SANDPONT — If Pine Streets Woods is the community’s playground, then perhaps the historic Toboggan Hill is the gateway.
“The best way to describe it is that it’s the Pine Street Woods farm, right,” said Katie Egland Cox, executive director of the Kaniksu Land Trust. “At some point, the [Weiss] The family owned the whole parcel, and then when we bought Pine Street Woods, they kept those 48 acres. So it really is the farm that happens to have the most magnificent skiing. [and] hill and all Bonner County on it.”
And, to ensure it remains accessible to the community in perpetuity, the land trust announced in March that, thanks to angel donors, it had the site under contract to purchase. Now KLT officials have launched a fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $900,000 of the $2.1 million purchase price.
Located along Pine Street Loop, the 48-acre parcel features forest, grassland, a large pond, and structures associated with historic property. The most notable feature is the large hill which served as a community recreation site for half a century.
KLT officials plan to reopen the luge hill and see opportunities to expand existing programs on the property. A house on the site will be used for Kaniksu Folk School programs, including a variety of traditional crafts and music lessons. A pole barn on the site will house the portable sawmill and the land trust’s logging operation, and an existing pond could be stocked with fish to teach youngsters how to fish.
The land trust has until November 2023 to raise the $2.1 million needed to purchase the property and make improvements, Egland Cox said. Through grants and donations, KLT has already raised $1.2 million, leaving only $900,000 to spend.
This amount not only secures the site, but helps fund a master plan for the entire 400+ acres which includes the 180 acres Pine Street Woods as well as the Sherwood Forest and ATV sites, which are accessible to the public. through the land trust. . It will also help fund parking and other “setup fees” needed to make the property safe and fulfill KLT’s vision – and that of the community – for the site.
“We look forward to having conversations with our community as we plan this [on how to use the site,” Egland Cox said.
Instead of a traditional capital campaign, Egland Cox said the land trust is embarking on more of a neighborhood campaign. The campaign is an effort to recognize what the hill has meant to the community — in both its iterations as a ski hill and a sledding hill and what it will mean in the future.
“We’re challenging neighborhoods to come together, find a captain, somebody who’s going to lead the charge, and gather the community, community by community, to make this happen.”
Neighborhood captains can come in, talk to KLT folks and then hit the trail — or, in this case sledding and ski hill — to help raise the remaining funds.
“We see this as a community-wide effort and we want to bring as many people to [the campaign,] said Egland Cox. “The toboggan hill has been such a big part of our community. It’s not just Kaniksu Land Trust, it’s not just the people who have supported Kaniksu Land Trust. This toboggan hill belongs to every person and number of people who have lived it, who love it.”
Since launching the campaign while participating in the July 4 parade, KLT officials said they received a number of donations from people who had never donated to Kaniksu Land Trust before.
It helped them realize that a traditional campaign was not the right solution for something that holds a special place in the hearts of the community. The campaign, they said, is not about the land trust.
“It’s something much bigger than us,” she said. “It’s our way of attracting members of the community where the toboggan run has been a part of their lives, you know for a lot of them, since they were kids.”
They hope that everyone who has been to the hill, whether to ski there in the 1940s and 1950s or to race down the hill just a few years ago on a sled, will connect with the mission of the land trust of protect the site for the community.
“We’re hoping these people will come out of the woodwork to be a part of this and be able to say, ‘I helped save and protect this sledding hill not just for my kids, but for my kids’ kids because what we doing here creates something forever, for this community.”
While a masterplan is part of the fundraising campaign, Egland Cox said land trust officials hope to see the sledding hill once again become a place where young people in the community can sled in the winter, and can -to be another location serving as a skill hill again. They would love to see kids learn to fly fish in a pond Joe Weiss once kept full of fish, have a picnic by the pond, or go for a hike or run.
“In a way, we want to tear down the fences and just open them up so it looks like the front door to Pine Street Woods,” she said. “Where you can access the trails below that will take you to the ones above. We want it to be there for the community. That’s our goal.”
The response since the unveiling of the campaign at the parade has been fabulous, land trust officials said. Every day seems to bring another person with memories or a gift or a question about how they can help.
They want everyone to feel part of the campaign to save the sledding hill, know that any donation is essential to save the site for the community.
“I think the important message to get across is that we hope everyone will think of a way to participate and be a part of this,” Egland Cox said. “To be that as part of a neighborhood campaign, or just as an individual donating. Or if they’re business owners, you know, calling us and having their business supported as well. We just hope that we hope we do this special campaign where everyone feels there is a way they can contribute.”
Land trust officials also hope the community will share their stories of the ski and toboggan hill, how it has played a role in their lives and what it has meant to them over the years.
“It was so cool to hear how it all happened, how it all fell into place,” KLT communications director Marcy Timblin said of the ski resort’s origins. “And it was just a fluke, it was just bored kids who just wanted something to do and they borrowed their dad’s old wooden skis…and they got an old motor and then they all got it took turns working and figured out he understood stuff as they went.”