Old Man Winter has taken his dreary long time turning the calendar pages to spring. Happily, the signs of seasonal change are now all about us — our omnipresent deer are showing their winter-scruffed hides; the osprey are chasing the geese from their nests; and tourists in shorts and sandals are beginning to appear again.
Most important, skis and Yaktrax are stored away and the snow-free open ground is finally fit to walk on.
In Coeur d'Alene, Tubbs Hill, our beloved 134 acres of wilderness jutting out into Lake Coeur d'Alene, is laced with walking trails. Wildflowers appear on the hill in reliable progression — just as the snow begins to disappear, the perky buttercups pop up, followed by white spring beauties, along with blankets of yellow glacier lilies, then purple grasswidows and, as the weather heats up, the arrowleaf balsamroot, which hangs around through the summer. (The flowers are for viewing only; it's against the rules to pick the wildflowers, no matter how sweet the child is who begs to pluck a handful.)
Led by former state Senator Art Manley and my late husband Scott Reed, Tubbs Hill was acquired for public ownership piece by piece over a period of years, beginning in 1968. I think I can safely say that Tubbs Hill is thoroughly loved by Coeur d'Alene residents. Nature lovers, runners, hikers and families with kids have clambered on, jumped in the lake from, and hiked the trails of Tubbs Hill for generations.
Although Art and Scott led a dogged charge to acquire the hill, many mayors and city council members, city staff, runners, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, Tubbs Hill Foundation members, men, women and children have played a part in building the Tubbs Hill tradition. Tubbs Hill truly belongs to all of us.
Currently, a question is on the table regarding two lots on Young Avenue at the northeast corner of Tubbs Hill. Ignite cda, the city's urban renewal agency, bought two lots some time ago and recently had the houses on them torn down and carted away. The lots directly connect Tubbs Hill to the city parking lot and McEuen Park. Ignite cda purchased the property for $629,000; it is now appraised at $960,000. Ignite cda is understandably concerned about covering the cost of its investment. Ignite board members are currently weighing the options — to sell, to hold on, or to deed the land to the city.
Former Idaho Representative George Sayler, now president of the Tubbs Hill Foundation, and I have offered our help to keep the property in public hands. We believe the land can be used for either a seasonal interpretive nature center, a youth day camp or some other use compatible for an area joining the wilderness area, Tubbs Hill, and the recreational area, McEuen Park. We think the option to sell the lots to private individuals who would build new, imposing and inappropriate houses would be a very unwise decision.
I am close to confident that a good solution will be reached to solve this problem. After all, ignite cda is the organization that made our marvelous new McEuen Park possible.
Meanwhile, heading west on Northwest Boulevard from Tubbs Hill are the 29 acres that the Bureau of Land Management plans to hand over from federal management to the city of Coeur d'Alene.
The strip of BLM land runs west approximately 2.5 miles along Northwest Boulevard, starting at the end of the existing skate park and ending close to the entrance to Riverstone. Imagine this linear park, 200 feet wide, that will feature a new skate park, a pickleball court, a children's playground, a bicycle section, a boulder-climbing unit, a micro-soccer court and a new dog park, connected by a commuter trail and a gravel walking path. New to my vocabulary will also be a futsal court. Futsal is a South American variation on soccer with five players per side, originally developed to play on basketball courts; anyone can play, during any season, indoors or outdoors.
The BLM Corridor Park proposal is complete and is now sitting in the Washington, D.C., office waiting for a federal OK. No opposition is expected, but no timetable has been set.
The planning for the BLM Corridor Park has been in the works for years and is a huuuuuge deal. Two BLM officials, Kurt Pavlat and Janna Paronto, started planning years ago with City Attorney Mike Gridley, former Mayor Sandi Bloem and former Park Director Doug Eastwood. With time, the task has been passed on to Mayor Steve Widmyer and new city Park Director Bill Greenwood.
The project will add an entirely new treasure trove of recreational options for the community to use and to offer its visitors. Perhaps in the future, Coeur d'Alene could offer to hold international futsal tournaments, pickleball contests or bocce carnivals. Certainly, we will compete for the longest linear recreational park in Idaho.
I started this springtime saga with hiking boots on Tubbs Hill and end it with dreams of multicolored tennis shoes, sandals and futsal gear. Stretch your legs and free your feet. When spring is here, summer is not far behind. ♦