The Coeur d’Alene area is one of the prettiest places in Idaho. It is surrounded by lush mountains, beautiful lakes, scenic rivers, and charismatic wildlife. The area is also blessed with four glorious and distinct seasons that each bring with them new opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, from snow-skiing to zip-lining, from world-class golf to parasailing. The area is a mecca of sorts for hunting and fishing enthusiasts, and events like the Ironman and even hydroplane races periodically draw people to the area, sometimes for vacation and, more often lately, for relocation.
One outdoor activity that is popular with locals and tourists alike is using any of the numerous trails in the area. For example, the Centennial Trail runs for 23 miles from Spokane to Higgins Point in Coeur d’Alene. It is used daily by joggers, pedestrians, skaters, cyclists, and even bicycle commuters almost year-round. Canfield Mountain on the east side of Coeur d’Alene has ATV, dirt-bike, and hiking trails. Almost everyone in the area has enjoyed a hike on Tubbs Hill at least a time or two, and the Mineral Ridge hike a few minutes south of downtown is also popular. If you are willing to venture further afield, you can check out the 13-mile rails-to-trails conversion called the Route of the Hiawatha that starts about 60 miles east of Coeur d’Alene. It is a scenic highlight and a “must-do” adventure for any cyclist, winding over seven trestle bridges and through ten tunnels.
A Neighborhood Trail Network
In addition to these more adventurous trails, there is also a remarkable network of local bike paths and walking trails in the neighboring cities of Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. Nearly every new development has some trail access, and all the major thoroughfares are designed to accommodate foot and bicycle traffic. Many of these trails interconnect with one another, giving residents a safe way to travel long distances on foot or bike without having to contend with the dangers of vehicle traffic.
While some of the trails are less scenic – the Centennial Trail, for example, runs along a not-so-scenic part of Interstate 90 for several miles – others are enjoyed not just for exercise enthusiasts or for providing accessibility, but for their sheet beauty. One trail that has become very popular in the last few years follows the Spokane River in Coeur d’Alene.
The part of the Centennial Trail that runs along the Interstate 90 corridor cuts south away from the highway toward the Spokane River east of Atlas Road. It runs along the shoreline of the Spokane River and at North Idaho College, the trail begins its run around Lake Coeur d’Alene.
It is hard to imagine now, but about two decades ago, this area was not attracting anyone for recreation, despite the beauty of the river. That is because a large part of the riverfront property was the site of a large lumber mill, and the rest was undeveloped dirt. Today, the entire area has become a somewhat swanky residential area, with a lot of recreation mixed in. Riverstone has become a favorite eating spot for locals and tourists, with a variety of resources: numerous restaurants, a movie theater, condos, apartments, spas, retail, and other businesses. Throughout Riverstone, there are paths that lead to a park and pond and to the riverfront.
Directly downstream, developers have quickly taken advantage of the river’s natural beauty now that the mill is gone; a good portion of the riverfront is now the site for a number of high-end homes. Although there are some public recreational areas, particularly at Atlas Park and the neighboring beach, in a lot of cases, the public is losing access to the riverfront. The path that skirts the riverfront along Atlas beach and Atlas park provides welcome recreational opportunities to local residents, but both Mill River and Belle Rive offer few opportunities for the public to access the river. But there is one riverfront developer that wants to buck this trend.
More Recreational Trail Opportunities for Coeur d’Alene
River’s Edge is an approved apartment/housing/commercial development just west of Atlas Road. It sits on about 25 acres of riverfront property and, as currently slated, it too is supposed to have a line of riverfront homes along the shore. Although the city required the developer to provide a public trail through the development, the trail, as currently plotted, runs along route that has a not-so-beautiful view of residential garages and an apartment parking lot, with two slim lots between homes for river access.
The developer believes that this mininal public access provides little or no benefit to the public; the “trail” is little more than an urban sidewalk. Instead, River’s Edge is asking the City of Coeur d’Alene to grant it a special use permit that will enable it to replace the riverfront homes with a 40-foot wide riverfront esplanade that will link to the Atlas trail along the river. The esplanade would have a wide landscaped pathway from one end of the property to the other all along the waterfront. There would be steps down to the beach, boat slips that can be rented to the tenants in the complex, seating areas, trees, and picnic tables. Instead of riverfront homes, the development would build more apartment buildings so that rental tenants could fully enjoy riverfront living. However, all buildings would be set back from the river by 80 feet, giving the public a park-like recreational trail.
River’s Edge thinks that this is a much better way to develop Spokane River frontage in Coeur d’Alene. There are enough fancy homes already, and not enough recreational venues for the public to truly enjoy this scenic area. To find out more about the River’s Edge proposal, please visit this website. If you are in favor of this new plan, please share your support with the Coeur d’Alene City Council.