The project was completed by Fish and Game with funding from Avista Corp. and hunting and fishing license dollars.
The ramp, as nice an improvement as it is, is just the first phase of a major effort to make significant additions and new amenities to the site. Chief among these is the planned construction of a new, one-acre public fishing pond adjacent to the ramp. Work on the pond will begin this fall. The pond is set to open next spring after the water settles. The pond project was only made possible due to a generous donation from Avista Corp.
Prior to the opening, Fish and Game will be planting catchable-sized rainbow trout in the pond. The pond will be planted with additional fish throughout the summer when temperatures are low enough to permit fish transport.
The site is about one mile south of St. Maries. According to Fish and Game habitat and access manager JJ Teare, Fish and Game is always looking for places to create fishing opportunities close to people. When the Fish and Game fishing access crew was installing the new ramp, it became apparent that the site would also be a great place for a family fishing water. Family fishing waters are waters with simple, easy to understand rules where hatchery rainbow trout are planted with an expected high rate of return to anglers.
Nothing makes an Fish and Game fisheries manager or access site manager happier than seeing local kids riding their bikes to a local fishing hole with fishing tackle in their hands; or a family sitting on the green grass enjoying the sunshine while trying their luck with a fishing pole.
Fish and Game is installing a new permanent vault toilet at the site and will be working with the City of St Maries and with Benewah County to add picnic tables and other amenities.
The entire facility will be ADA accessible. In addition to the new pond, Fish and Game plans to enhance river fishing through improved fishing access to the river at the site. This would involve placing concrete block piers.
Concrete blocks would be set along the shore and extend into the water. They are backfilled with fairly small gravel that is navigable with a wheelchair or walker. These structures enable limited mobility anglers to cast and fish without willows and other shoreline vegetation making fishing difficult. Similar structures have been built at Steamboat Ponds in Shoshone County and have been very popular.
Parking will be expanded and the parking area raised to a higher level. A new wetland will be created on the site as mitigation for a wetland that needs to be filled in for the project.
Teare expects it will take two years for all of the improvements to be completed. It is his hope that the facility will bring people from the surrounding area to the edge of town to fish and picnic.
During various phases of construction, the use of heavy equipment will require that the area be closed for safety. This temporary closure will start as early as the end of this summer. Notice will be posted and advertised prior to any closure.
Boaters are generally pleased with the new launch ramp already in place, but a few problems have been reported. A few rocks interfere with the new ramp and some partially submerged pipes are causing anglers fits. Some anglers have hooked pike that have then wound themselves around the pipes and broken off fishing lines. It seems those pike always find a way to escape. Fish and Game has heard these concerns; and, as soon as the water level goes down enough to permit the work these problems will be remedied.
The new family fishing access site and boat launch will provide great recreational opportunities for local residents of all ages and surely bring in visitors into the area helping to boost the local economy. We are looking forward to the first line being cast into the pond, and the first fish hooked and landed. The pond will also be an excellent site for Fish and Game and the local community to hold fishing clinics and events.