Sprow Family Preserve: A Victory for Wildlife Habitat

January 31, 2020

It is hard to imagine a more idyllic wildlife refuge than the Sprow Family Preserve. It supports moose, elk, and deer browsing in the underbrush; Bald Eagles, butterflies, and songbirds flying overhead; Great Horned Owls perched in the forest canopy; and Great Blue Herons feeding in the ponds. There are ponderosa pines that are up to 120 years old, and colorful wildflowers such as showy phlox, shooting stars, larkspur, yellow iris, and lady slippers.

Thanks to your help, 108 acres in the Dishman Hills of abundant wildlife habitat are now permanently protected. This is in “the wild heart of Spokane.” You have supported INLC in joining with the Sprow family to preserve this amazing refuge. The children of the late Earnie and Alice Sprow own the Sprow Family Preserve, which they conserved in honor of their parents. It has two ponds, a stream, and a spring, heavily used by wildlife, that flow into the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Aquifer, as well as stunning views toward Spokane Valley and Mt. Spokane. An impressive 193,000 people per day can glimpse it from five major highways. The preserve is in the center of a wildlife corridor that stretches from the Spokane Valley to Big Rock.

Because the Sprow Family Preserve is so close to Spokane, it is under constant pressure for development, and, in fact, is zoned to be split into eleven house lots. Development would fragment the habitat, ruin its scenic beauty, and impair water quality. While the Sprow family has no intention of developing their precious preserve, the future is unpredictable. Now, however, the future is absolutely secure. The refuge may someday be sold, but aside from the two-acre parcel that allows for one single-family home, it may never, absolutely never, be developed.

The Sprow Family Preserve was once the Ski-Mor Resort, which featured two ski jumps that attracted international visitors, a lodge and fireplace, a toboggan run, and an ice skating pond. Although the resort closed in 1942, the ski lift operated into the 1950s. The lodge collapsed in the early 1950s, but the old chimney stands sentinel.

Sprow family memorial bench - Brian Vrablick with dog Mylo

n 1955, the Sprow family bought the property, which was then pasture and forest land. In 1960 Earnie and Alice Sprow built a house. In addition to caring for their own five children, over the years they welcomed twelve international exchange students, including a teenager who was evacuated from Cuba in order to finish her schooling. Earnie and Alice Sprow gave the sanctuary to their children, who transformed it into a well-managed forest. In honor of their parents, who died in 2007 and 2015, the Sprow children created a memorial bench overlooking Spokane Valley, where they spread their parents’ ashes. Several years ago, the Sprow family approached the Conservancy for help in protecting their land. At the very end of 2019 (1:24 p.m. on December 30), the Sprow Family Preserve came into being.

The Sprow family explicitly values habitat preservation, education, wildlife protection, and solitude in nature. They eloquently write, “We want to prevent habitat degradation of the forest and riparian area, and particularly value its rich biodiversity. Our parents so enjoyed sharing this piece of remaining wildland habitat with the native animals and plants, and with the many families from around the world whose lives they touched.” As a private preserve, the land is NOT open to the public.

We thank the Sprow family and the supporters of INLC for protecting this priceless wildlife sanctuary. This conservation easement ensures that the forest can continue to be carefully managed to ensure forest health, diversity, protection for wildlife and stream corridors, and wildfire risk reduction.

We are grateful to the Sprow family for their far-sighted vision, and to our INLC family for helping to make it happen. For over twenty years INLC has been identifying and protecting important lands in the Dishman Hills. The Sprow Family Preserve is the latest piece in this puzzle. Thank you!