The Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane wins the Club Conservation Award from the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International for 2021 for its outstanding leadership acquiring and permanently conserving 8 acres of public fishing access on the Grand Ronde River. Known as the Ebsen Fishing Access site, the private lot had been operated by WDFW for public use for years. When the Inland Empire club learned the owner wanted to sell but WDFW was unable to purchase the site, the Inland Empire Club moved swiftly to create a partnership with the Wild Steelhead Coalition and put down earnest money to keep the land off the market. Inland Empire then swiftly reached out to the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International for help raising the cash to finance the purchase.
Thanks to the hustle of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane, the partnership of Seattle’s Wild Steelhead Coalition and the generosity of fly fishers statewide, eight acres of prime river access are permanently in public hands. Special credit goes to Inland Empire member Jim Athearn who was at the center of every step in the transaction, and club President Jon Bowne who kept the club squarely behind the effort. 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.
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 State Council of Fly Fishers International and many of them members of the IEFFC—donated $30,000 that covered the purchase price and legal fees surrounding the transfer to state control. Donors included eight Washington fly clubs; 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.
Another key person who made a huge contribution to the Grande Ronde project was Mark Pinch. Without his technical knowledge and guidance on the real estate aspects of the project, we would have not been able to pull this off. He was always there to answer questions and look over our shoulders to make sure we were squared away with the all the intricacies of the real estate transactions.
“There was regional support for this,” said Jim Athearn. “Now it will be a regional asset forever.”
Steve Jones, President of the Washington State Council of FFI was present at the Ebsen Fishing access site dedication to present the award to the club.
Jim with President Emeritus Leon Buckles
Steve Jones presenting the plaque to Jim Athearn