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Bench protest planned

by Alecia Warren
| April 27, 2010 9:00 PM

Something is missing at the Eagle Boat Launch at Farragut State Park, says Sheryl Puckett.

A bench.

The longtime Bayview resident believes a part of the community was lost when the park removed the single shoreline bench a year and a half ago.

And she intends to let everyone know.

Pushing for a replacement bench, Puckett is organizing an outdoor sit-in at the boat launch on May 8.

"What it means to me is I have a lot of memories of sitting on that bench," said Puckett, a Bayview resident who said she has rested there throughout the past 30 years. "I would go down with a friend, and it was a place where we met and sat on the bench and yakked. It was a place I enjoyed going to."

Yet the park had multiple reasons for removing the wood bench from its spot looking out at Lake Pend Oreille, said park manager Randall Butt.

It had reached the end of its life cycle, for one, Butt said, plus the removal tied into major dock improvements.

Most important, he added, Eagle is the only boat access at the south end of the lake, and is packed with crowds during tourist season.

The absence of a bench won't lure as many people, he said, and ensures that those at the launch are using it for its intended purpose.

"As the years have passed, use of the boat launch, especially during the summer months, has exceeded capacity," Butt said. "Obviously, when you're backing a boat down the ramp, your visual sight lines are blocked. It's hard to see what's behind you. The fewer people walking across the boat ramp, the safer it is."

Park staff said there is no history of injuries from boat movement at the launch.

Not everyone in the community agrees with Butt's concerns.

"To me, his reasons are not valid. They don't convince me," said Cindy Post, vice president of the Bayview Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber had paired with the Bayview Community Council in offering to pay the roughly $1,200 for a new bench when the original was removed, Post said.

"It has been there for 30 years," she said. "A lot of Bayview people walk through the park almost every day, and it's a good place to stop and rest."

Butt had responded that the park would accept their donation, but only if the bench were installed at a separate location.

The organizations dropped the offer, Post said. They only wanted the seat where it was before.

"Where Randall wanted to put the other bench is just not as picturesque," Post said. "We thought also it's a good idea for kids and older adults (to have a bench by the launch), that they could sit and wait while their families get the boats into the water."

Puckett said the protest will be from 10 to 11 a.m. by the launch on May 8.

Those who attend are asked to bring their own lawn chairs and signs, she said. Free snacks will be provided.

"I'm realistic, I don't think he (Butt) is going to change his mind," Puckett said. "But I'm trying to make a point here and show that we're serious."

So is the park, Butt said.

"I realize a bench might seem like a very simple thing," he said. "But sometimes those smaller things that may not seem important play a key part in people walking away at the end of the day and saying, 'Wow, I had a great day at Farragut.'"

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