COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County landowner Jason Evans and the city of Coeur d’Alene Parks and Recreation Department created a memorandum of understanding this week, breaking trail for Evans’ property, Cancourse, to become a leased city park managed by the city of Coeur d’Alene.
Cancourse is directly east of the Canfield Mountain Natural Area, a 24-acre city park adjacent to the Copper Ridge neighborhood. Accessed from the east terminus of Shadduck Lane and via the city park, Cancourse provides the only legal, non-motorized access to the National Forest trail system from town, according to forest maps.
Kootenai County Planning Director David Callahan believes the lease agreement will meet the definition of a public park. In the agricultural suburban zone where Cancourse is located, public parks are by-right users and are exempt from needing conditional use permits.
“Evans withdrew his appeal from Kootenai County Friday morning with the provision that the county will allow him to reinstate his appeal if he does not come to an agreement with the city,” Callahan said.
Callahan issued Evans a request Sept. 16 requiring him to apply for a conditional use permit for his 138 acres on the side of Canfield Mountain. Evans appealed the request, concerned he would not be able to enforce the conditions of the permit.
“The best outcome for Cancourse in the long term would be for it to be a city park,” Evans said prior to the memorandum’s creation. “The city, answering to its citizens, can make better land management decisions for the long term.”
As of Tuesday, 135 public comments on the appeal hearing had been submitted to the county, with 125 showing support and nine opposed.
The agreement between Evans and the city will need to go through the Coeur d’Alene Parks and Recreation Commission and be approved by the City Council, a process that could take two to four months, according to city officials. The public will have an opportunity to voice concerns.
“Our rules almost mirror what the county is asking for as oversight,” said Bill Greenwood, Parks and Recreation director for Coeur d’Alene. “We’ll treat [Cancourse] just like an open space park, like Tubbs Hill and the Fernan Lake Natural Area. We will go up regularly and police for trash, for people camping. There will be hours of operation, things the county is interested in.”
“This property will be considered a natural park and will be managed pursuant to city ordinances that specifically address hours of operation, as well as the prohibition of fires, alcohol, smoking, fireworks, and unauthorized motor vehicles. The city of Coeur d'Alene will be responsible for the enforcement of these codes through our police department,” Greenwood wrote in a letter to Callahan Wednesday.
Cancourse can continue to allow public access while the lease agreement is being written, according to Evans and city officials.
Evans and his family were living at the base of Canfield Mountain in 2018. Marvin Erickson, the previous owner of what is now Cancourse, was on a bulldozer in Evans’ backyard, according to Evans, building a road from his property to Thomas Lane. Erickson intended to develop and subdivide his property, but was eventually denied permission by the city. The property went up for sale.
“It was then that I realized this is going to go away. There’s this access that everybody’s using and it’s going to get developed,” Evans said. “I purchased it. I was concerned that if I didn’t do it somebody else was going to buy it and develop houses.”
The face of Canfield Mountain is a web of hiking trails, cut with dirt bike trails and several Jeep roads. The maze is pocketed with the work Evans has done over the past year to establish sustainable hiking and mountain biking trails.
“This land has been used with or without permission for a very long time,” Evans said. “Erickson got angry with motorcycles using it. He cut down a lot of trees to try and block them. He was angry but it wasn’t very effective.”
For two years Evans has been asking one question: “How do we protect this land in the long term?”
He’s been working with city officials and the Lake City Trail Alliance to protect the land from development and unsustainable recreational use.
Evans is a software engineer by training, but has spent the past two years diving into forestry studies to learn how to manage his land. He’s in the process of completing his training in the Idaho Department of Lands Forest Stewardship program. He has spent over $100,000 rehabilitating the forest ecosystem within his property.
Evans hired trail builders to design sustainable tread for hiking and mountain biking trails. He’s selected several trails susceptible to erosion and decommissioned them. Evans’ intention is to create a working forest ecosystem where the public can recreate. He discovered more than 40 white pines on his property while working to manage invasive weeds.
In addition to the conditional use permit, the county determined Evans’ restoration work required a site disturbance permit.
Lake City Engineering President Drew Dittman filed a formal complaint against Evans with the county on June 28, prompting the county to investigate the property. Callahan determined that the recreation on Cancourse required a conditional use permit and the trail maintenance and restoration work required a site disturbance permit.
Dittman lives near Evans and was approached by several neighbors to look into the county code.
“We had to file a formal complaint in order for the county to investigate what was going on,” Dittman said. “I am personally not against what Mr. Evans is trying to do and I don’t think any of the neighbors are. We’re just opposed to the manner in which he’s trying to do it.”
Dittman hopes the city will involve the community in its planning process.
“It needs to be done in consideration to the property owners and the community as a whole,” Dittman said.
In this situation, private landowners and city officials will collaborate to provide continued public access to an area where residents have recreated for generations.
“I’m jazzed about this one,” Callahan said. “I think it will be a good one in the end.”