It the sort of suburban landscape found in most American cities, a terrain characterized by car lots, restaurants, gas stations and miles of pavement.
That is, until you travel to the south and find an area zoned as the “Great Outdoors.”
Tim Engh works as a financial center manager for American West Bank along the Sprague/Appleway corridor in Spokane Valley. Before he started crunching numbers, Engh spent time with the U.S. Forest Service, clearing trails in Montana. These days, he hikes a few blocks on the sidewalk bordering his work to spend his lunch break in a place known as Dishman Hills.
|Volunteer crews will gather in the Dishman Hills Natural Area in Spokane Valley this Saturday, April 9, for the second annual Service Day, an event organized to shore up segments of the 530-acre forestland. Photo by: Craig Howard
The 530-acre refuge hedges up against Appleway Boulevard, a main throroughfare that carries vehicles in eastbound lanes parallel to Sprague. Not far from Engh’s bank at 9019 E. Appleway, a gravel trail winds up to a site called Camp Caro. On the surrounding slopes, Ponderosa pines tower above a sprawling greenspace that rivals any park in Spokane County.
“People drive by here every day and have never heard of Dishman Hills,” Engh said.
This Saturday, April 9, Engh will be among hundreds of volunteers to gather for the second annual Service Day sponsored by REI-Spokane and the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association. The event is designed as a community effort addressing everything from fence building to garbage cleanup.
“It’s about raising awareness and promoting volunteerism,” said Jeff Lambert, chairman of the event and DHNAA vice-president. “This is rewarding work.”
The inaugural Service Day last year included a total of nearly 300 volunteers. Lambert said registration is already at 300 this year with more anticipated walk-ins on Saturday. The agenda includes registration at 9:30 a.m. with crews fanning out at 10. The work will wrap up at 1 after which lunch and live music will close out the day at Camp Caro.
The day will feature contributions from a cadre of corporate sponsors, groups like the Spokane Mountaineers and volunteer contingents from Gonzaga University as well as other area schools, including University High School.
Carol Christensen of REI said the outdoor recreation company has a tradition of supporting local environmental causes such as the annual Spokane River cleanup. She said that while REI generates interest on the ground level, the approach is about passing on such projects to community entities like Avista Corp. in the case of the river program or DHNAA for the Service Day. A $10,000 stewardship grant from REI to the association has been a boost for this year’s event.
“They are a valuable and appreciated part of the outdoor recreation community here in Spokane,” said Michael Hamilton, DHNAA president.
While the inaugural project involved the southern side of Dishman Hills with tree planting and other renovation efforts addressing the damage from the Valley View fire two summers ago, this year volunteers will tackle the northern section, starting with the construction of a fence along a new winter parking lot off Appleway. Biological restoration will also be part of the work, specifically weed removal, tree and shrub planting and grass seeding.
Other objectives include constructing a short trail from the winter lot to Camp Caro and the surrounding trails, general surveying, trash collection and trail clearing.
“This is about taking on more stewardship,” said Lambert who also serves on the Spokane County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. “It gives folks an opportunity to help out and learn about the area.”
Want to find out more?
To learn more about the April 9 Service Day at Dishman Hills, call 747-8147 or visit www.dhnaa.org. To register, go to www.rei.com/stores/24.