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Uphill battle on North Fork

Hagadone News Network | August 6, 2020 1:06 AM

Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office towing illegally parked vehicles

KINGSTON — The North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River has always been a popular summertime recreation area for people near and far.

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping folks close to home more than normal this year though, the popular destination is seeing even more crowds than usual.

Those on the river this past weekend may have noticed Shoshone County Sheriff’s deputies going up and down Old River Road attempting to enforce parking regulations. Most notably around the Bumblebee Bridge area — arguably the most popular spot to start a float down the river — tow trucks were busy removing vehicles that were parked illegally.

“Every weekend, we’ve been towing vehicles,” Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson said. ”We’ve done it for years.”

Gunderson’s office has a deputy dedicated to the North Fork in the summers. Gunderson said even if towing is used as a deterrent to parking illegally, once the deputy leaves the area, another car just takes the place of the last one.

“How do you regulate something that is open to the public?” Gunderson said. “People keep bringing up tolls and permits. If we could do that, don’t you think every other community in Idaho that has a recreational area would be doing it as well? It’s just not legal, unfortunately.”

Several ideas have been pitched to the county in an effort to either cut down on the amount of traffic in the area or bring in more revenue from the traffic, but none have come to fruition.

On the North Fork, areas with solid yellow lines on the side of the road are off-limits for parking; even if there’s enough room to get your vehicle completely off the road. Failure to abide by the rules could result in a ticket and/or your vehicle being towed.

Gunderson understands that this limits the amount of parking in certain areas, such as Bumblebee, but you can only fit so many people in one spot until it starts becoming a safety hazard.

“There’s 80 miles of river,” he said. “The only floating isn’t from Bumblebee to Albert’s Landing. Once that parking is full, you have to find somewhere else to park. It only handles so much, then we’re in a position like we were last weekend where we are towing a bunch of vehicles because they’re illegally parked on the roadway.”