Waterfront access ‘most critical’ at Atlas site

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More public meetings

Several meetings are scheduled with a focum on the development of the former Atlas site. A request for proposals for the improvements is expected to be advertised this spring. Award for the work is anticipated this summer. All meetings will be held in the Community Room of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

March 18 - Parks and Recreation Commission, 5:30 p.m.

March 20 - Ignite cda, 4:30 p.m.

March 28 - City Council/ignite CDA workshop, noon

April 4 - Planning Commission, 11 a.m.

Increased public access to the Spokane River? Yes. More boat docks? Not so fast.

That was the consensus during a 90-minute workshop in Coeur d’Alene Friday to discuss future uses of a former waterfront industrial site purchased last year by the city.

Nearly 50 people attended the forum for an opportunity to sound off to the City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission and learn more about the latest proposed improvements to the 47-acre site.

Interest remains high for public uses of the former Atlas mill site and the few who addressed officials were generally supportive of conceptual plans for one of the last remaining pieces of waterfront property in Coeur d’Alene.

“This is a really beautiful, magnificent plan,” said Cindy Livingston, who lives on the river near the Atlas site.

Livingston, who serves on the city’s Centennial Trail Foundation board, encouraged city officials to plan for the future.

“Consider the comprehensive plan — what it will look like in 10 to 15 years — and keep it for the public,” Livingston said.

City officials agreed.

“Waterfront access is the most critical piece of this plan,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike McDowell.

There was hesitation among city officials, however, about dozens of proposed boat slips for day use, long-term moorage and for commercial vendors. While those moorage spaces would generate revenue for maintenance of public areas, it would come with a price tag.

City Councilman Woody McEvers noted the high cost of maintaining docks, particularly on the river with fluctuating water levels and high boat traffic.

A motion by Councilman Dan Gookin to remove the dock proposal from the conceptual plan did not receive a second. And while docks may not be a priority, Mayor Steve Widmyer said it should be included in the proposal as the city moves forward and seeks further public input.

“I’d like to see more dock discussion, but it’s low on the priority list,” Widmyer said.

Consultant Phil Boyd of Welch Comer Engineers reiterated two areas of development for the property. The first, referred to as “clean and green,” is already funded with an estimated price tag of $3.5 million.

It includes site grading and retaining walls, shoreline stabilization, a gravel pedestrian trail, restroom and picnic shelter, irrigation and landscaping.

Future improvements, not yet funded, include a beach picnic site, kayak launch, playground, water feature and riverside dog park at a cost of $2.8 million.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Christie Wood voiced approval of the dog park.

“I’m literally on this site every day and people are really excited for a little piece of waterfront for their dogs,” she said.

The city’s urban renewal agency, ignite cda, will potentially provide funding for those supplemental improvements beyond what is already funded.

Following the meeting, Widmyer voiced optimism about the public involvement in the process.

“We feel we have captured what the citizens would like and there will be more opportunity for feedback,” the mayor said. “We invite everyone to participate in the process.”

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