Drewes Farm: Protected Forever for the South Hill Community

December 30, 2022

Your Conservancy is proud to announce the protection of a portion of the historic Drewes Farm on Spokane’s upper South Hill. This land, farmed for generations, will remain an island of open space in one of the city’s fast-growing urban areas, allowing future access to nature for tens of thousands of residents. Read more about this exciting and unique project below.

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Iconic South Hill Drewes Farm Protected with a Conservation Agreement

Inland Northwest Land Conservancy is pleased to announce the permanent protection of 14 acres of the Drewes Farm. The farm, owned by John, Dan, and Paula Bauer, is one of the few undeveloped spaces on the upper South Hill in Spokane and will soon be home to a cutting-edge YMCA facility that will serve this burgeoning community. With access to the Ben Burr Trail, the goal of protecting this piece of land is to create a sustainable natural space with trails, native plants, and a restored wetland that the whole community can enjoy.

The Drewes family has owned the Drewes Farm Conservancy since 1935, purchased by John and Daniel Bauer’s grandparents Herman and Rosie Drewes, and has been farming it for the entirety of their family ownership, spanning three generations. Agricultural uses historically included animal husbandry and animal pasture, irrigated vegetable crops like beans, corn, cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes, and dryland crops like those grown today, including hay, wheat, barley, and oats.

Prior to the Drewes family ownership, the land was owned by J.J. Browne, who was a significant attorney and businessman in the early 1900s in Spokane and established the downtown neighborhood of Brownes Addition. He brought electricity to his country home on the Moran Prairie, the house that was present on the Drewes family land; the first house electrified in the area.

In the 1800s, the Mullan Military Road was built, which was the first wagon road to cross the Rocky Mountains. The road spanned 624 miles and led from Fort Benton, Montana to approximately Walla Walla, Washington. This road crossed right through the Drewes Farm Conservancy, though evidence of its presence was erased by years of farming on the property.

Additionally, what is now the Ben Burr Trail had historically been the Spokane and Inland Railroad line, a freight and passenger line that ran along the western boundary of the property and brought produce, other agricultural products, and passengers from the farming communities of the prairie into Spokane. The rail line closed in 1940. The property was sold to Spokane County and all tracks were removed by 1951 and were transitioned into a maintained, public access trail in 2005. This trail is called the Ben Burr trail, named after Ben Burr, who engineered many of the transportation systems in Spokane in the mid-late 1800s. 

While most of Inland Northwest Land Conservancy’s land protection projects are much larger and represent forests, meadows, and waterways, this space is important to the local community and will create the opportunity for thousands of local residents to learn about and connect with a thriving Inland Northwest ecosystem.

Landowner John Bauer is working closely with the YMCA in plans for their facility with an emphasis on sustainability and healthy integration with the landscape. It will replace the current YMCA location at 57th and Regal.

YMCA Facility on the South Hill