Public spaces bring us all together

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On Saturday, April 23, I celebrated Earth Day with my kids by taking them to Pine Street Woods for their annual Labor Trail Party. In the two hour window between football games, we met dozens of other families to head into the forest and prepare for the next section of the trail. Couldn’t have been a nicer day.

All ages were represented. There was food, face painting, and even a dog-training lesson for the trails. I am always looking for opportunities to present my children for community service. It is important that they learn from an early age the value of giving back to the community. Last fall, we volunteered at the food bank. This time we went into the forest armed with loppers and hand saws.

Although it took a bit of conviction to dedicate a Saturday afternoon to the task, it was difficult to get them to leave in the end. There were lots of friends and family, which made it a party affair. Workgroups like this not only satisfy the need to give back, there is real joy in working with others to achieve a common goal. Better yet, to do it in nature on a beautiful day.

It seems every time I go to Pine Street Woods, which is about once a month, there is a new section of trail to explore. I have been deeply impressed with the management of this community asset by Kaniksu Land Trust. The hard work and commitment of Pend Oreille Pedalers continually delivers new trails and perpetual maintenance four seasons a year.

What this weekend has shown me is the power of trails and open spaces to bring community together. In an era of social and political polarization, social media-driven division, and loss of community cohesion, community spaces like Pine Street Woods ground us in a common purpose and shared identity. These are our places where people can learn to share so that we all benefit. We are learning to work together to care for our legacy that we leave to our children. Our children, working alongside us, learn this valuable lesson and pass it on to the next generation.

These valuable lessons are needed more than ever. KLT’s success is Bonner County’s success and Idaho’s success. I am filled with hope and inspiration as the success of the local conservation movement continues to grow in our community. The historic Pine Street Toboggan Run is the next addition to our collective open space inventory. Under contract to be purchased by KLT, the 48 acres will add to the growing network of public trails connected to Pine Street Woods and Sherwood Forest. These community assets are part of the 4,000 acres and 30 projects put into conservation by KLT.

The movement towards conservation, open public spaces, trails and connectivity brings people together, teaches us to share, teaches us to care for our land and strengthens social bonds. It also promotes health and well-being because it gives us all greater access to the outdoors and opportunities for exercise. It also promotes economic vitality because it attracts visitors who appreciate our investment and come here to enjoy what we have created. Together, we are building a healthy community that will bring prosperity to generations to come.

There will be no Mayor’s Roundtable this week due to the time demands of my writing Shelby Rognstad for the Governor’s campaign.

Shelby Rognstad is the mayor of Sandpoint. He can be reached at [email protected]

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