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Rec center plan a big part of Spirit Lake's future

by Brian Walker
| June 17, 2010 9:00 PM

SPIRIT LAKE - Some visionaries see Spirit Lake ripe to become a recreational paradise.

And they're taking steps to make it a reality.

An old pumphouse on the lake is being remodeled into a recreation center that will rent mountain bikes, kayaks and paddle boats to benefit the city's Parks and Recreation Department. The center's opening is pegged for June 2011.

Sunday's 10th annual Big Back-In on Father's Day, featuring lawnmower drag races and a variety of activities on Maine Street for the town's biggest event of the year, will benefit the rec center project.

The center will be part of an effort to create a destination recreation path between Spirit Lake and Mount Spokane in Washington, an idea that blossomed from the popular Labor Day bike ride along the stretch.

"The rec center will facilitate that notion (of creating a pathway)," said Marc Kroetch, a Spirit Lake businessman and an organizer of the Big Back-In.

The city will lease the building from Idaho Fish and Game. A new roof has already been put on. Improvements were made to the parking lot and boat launch.

About 75 lawnmowers will compete in the drags during the Big Back-In. A parade of the entrants and a poker run will be held at noon and racing will follow at 12:30 p.m.

The event, which also features a food court, beer garden, kids' play area and obstacle course, vendors and a log bed raffle, has raised funds to pay for bathrooms at the city park, repair the baseball field and other parks-related projects.

Kroetch said people from Canada and Montana have been asking about the event.

"It seems to be growing in its regional appeal," he said.

The mower races have jump-started fundraisers in other towns as a five-stop racing circuit will be held this year, starting with Spirit Lake.

The Back-In raises between $7,000 and $10,000 and is a boon for local businesses as most are open for the day.

The event has gone from a joke that was played on Harley riders going through town one weekend to taking on a life of its own with a parade and street drags.

Spirit Lake is a popular weekend stop for Harley riders, who back in to the curbs. Hence, the name. Locals pulled a prank one time and parked lawnmowers on Maine so the Harley riders couldn't park there.

"There will be about 3,000 people here at any one time," Kroetch said. "It's grown into something that has gotten its own legs and is totally out of my control anymore."

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