The final step in preserving the Ebsen Fishing Access on the Grand Ronde closed last week when WDFW took control of the property.
Thanks to the hustle of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane, an acquisition plan by Seattle’s Wild Steelhead Coalition and the generosity of fly fishers statewide, eight acres of prime river access are permanently in public hands. Credit also goes to landowners Lynn “Radar” Miller and his wife Kay. The couple has admired the rugged Grande Ronde for years and wanted future generations to enjoy it as well.
Miller owns other property in the area and for years he has looked across those eight river-side acres “and it was always nice to see the river and not a bunch of buildings,” Miller said last year when the land transfer began. “I wanted it to stay that way.”
The area between the north bank of the Grand Ronde and Snake River Road has been public fishing access since the early 1980s when the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife acquired a recreation easement from Miller. It’s summer steelhead water about three miles up-stream from the confluence with the Snake River. The main feature of the property is a stony shoreline between two fishing spots known as the Turkey Run on the downstream end and the Shadow Hole on the upstream end of the property. There is a pull off onto the property and a pit toilet installed by WDFW. At its widest, there is only 250 feet between the river and the road.
Last year, Miller decided he needrd to sell the property and offered it to WDFW, but the agency didn’t have money for acquisitions. The agency turned to the Inland Empire Fly Fishers in Spokane for ideas and club member Jim Athearn thought there had to be a way to preserve the fishing access. After a few conversations, Athearn and Miller settled on a price of $25,000. The Wild Steelhead Coalition of Seattle agreed to act as the non-profit transfer agent so private donors could receive tax benefits for their gifts. Now that land is in the hands of WDFW for ongoing management.
The Inland Empire club put up $2,000 in earnest money to secure the land. The Wild Steelhead Coalition pledged another $2,000 to launch fundraising. More than a dozen clubs and individuals –most of them affiliated with the Washington Council of Fly Fishers International—donated $30,000 that covered the purchase price and legal fees surrounding the transfer to state control. Donors included the Spokane Fly Fishers, Evergreen Fly Fishing Club, Puget Sound Fly Fishers, Columbia Basin Fly Fishers, Northwest Fly Anglers, Clark-Skamania Flyfishers, Wenatchee Valley Fly Fishers, Dry Side Fly Fishing Club and the Kelly Creek Fly Casters of Lewison, Idaho. In addition, the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International donated and two national organizations pitched in, the national board of Fly Fishers International and Back Country Hunters and Anglers.
“There was regional support for this,” said Jim Athearn who spearheaded the effort for Inland Empire. “Now it will be a regional asset forever.”