Sunday, June 16, 2024

Sharing North Idaho stories

Staff Writer | May 15, 2024 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — When people visit the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort, they don’t come just for the chance to win a car or money.

“That’s not what we’re all about,” Laura Penney, CEO of the resort operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

History and culture are becoming even bigger attractions.

“They want to learn about the tribe and North Idaho, so they come from all over the nation,” Penney said to about 150 people at the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber’s Upbeat Breakfast on Tuesday.

Cultural tourism is growing in importance and helping the tribe share its story, Penney said. It reaches beyond the casino to the tribe’s Marimm Health and Wellness Center that provides services from seniors to toddlers.

The center offers help in physical, behavioral and emotional health, and does so in a way that is “culturally sensitive."

“It’s amazing to see everyone coming together and celebrating wellness,” Penney said.

Penney was joined on stage by Britt Thurman, executive director of the Museum of North Idaho, Jordan Carter, director of marketing and entertainment at Silverwood Theme Park, and Bill Greenwood, Coeur d’Alene’s parks and recreation director.

The four talked about cultivating community vibrancy through cultural enrichment and recreational development.

Carter said that in a digital age, Silverwood offers people a chance to unwind and reconnect without phones.

The park remains owned by Gary Norton, who opened it in 1988. Today, it includes Boulder Beach Water Park and has more than 75 rides, attractions and shows. At more than 400 acres, it's the largest theme and water park in the Northwest.

Last year, it announced the new $15 million Emerald Forest addition to Boulder Beach which is expected to open this summer.

Carter said the Emerald Forest addition is designed to resemble its North Idaho surroundings with rides like Eagle Hunt.

“We’re working these stories into all the areas because that’s what enhances the experience,” he said.

Thurman said the museum is visited by longtime residents, new arrivals and tourists, all of different ages and backgrounds.

That means the museum shares the area’s history in a diversity of ways, from exhibits to cemetery walking tours to youth programs and galas. It offers micro histories of individuals who made the community what it is today.

“There is a lot of interest in our history and who we are as a people,” Thurman said. “It’s just trying to find the ways people are going to engage with that.”

Thurman said people often visit the museum to learn about their family history, which is good, because that creates connection between past and present. 

“Our impact is in the history we are able to preserve,” she said.

Greenwood said the Parks and Recreation Department has five divisions: Recreation, cemetery, urban forestry and building maintenance.

Greenwood said when he started with the city in 1999, it had 15 developed parks and Tubbs Hill. Today, it has 32 parks and four more natural parks.

The parks division maintains and manages over 605 acres, over 30 miles of pedestrian and bike path and 10 miles of hiking trails.

“A quality of life is what park and recreation experiences are all about,” he said.

Greenwood said before working with the city, his background was landscaping. He does the same thing for the city, but on a larger scale.

He emphasized the letter R as he wrapped up his talk. 

"We provide parks for recreation so our community can recreate to re-create so we can reconnect and reflect to rest and recharge,” Greenwood said.