As Mayor Bloem put it, “this isn’t the first time [McEuen Field and park] has been talked about and it won’t be the last.” But it was an impressive show last night at the open workshop sponsored by the City of Coeur d’Alene on design possibilities for the treasured downtown park.
The Mayor emphasized that there is no set plan for McEuen Park at this point, “There’s been planning, but no plan.” But she acknowledged that some concepts are likely to be lifted from previous planning efforts.
At first, I was put off by the place-the-dots-on-the-poster activity prior to the start of the event. Yet, the workshop itself was quite impressive. Masterfully facilitated by out-of-town firm MIG, the workshop led attendees through an exercise to rate “visual preferences” for potential park designs and amenities. Then the facilitator led the audience – a nearly full crowd at Lake City Senior Center – through a discussion of what the “character” of the park should be, as the “note-taker” did a semi-impromptu live illustration of the park plans being discussed.
The workshop mined some excellent ideas for connectivity, integration with Tubbs Hill, better connection to the lakefront, winter activities, and new features. There was some comments advocating for retaining traditional uses in traditional ways, but it was clear that at least this workshop audience was open to change and new ideas.
Most encouraging, a young skateboarder suggested that parking for the park be relocated closer to City Park and NIC – so as to serve a dual purpose of helping to solve an NIC parking crunch and to get people walking through the commercial district to get to the park. Another suggestion was to eliminate ALL of the parking except for senior and handicapped parking, which seems like a great idea to me. Except for one comment about operations at the boat launch, there seemed to be little disagreement that the vast swath of paved parking should be reclaimed for park purposes.
If nothing else, the workshop opened some eyes to what might be possible. Like last year’s workshop on the education corridor (that final report is here — a big pdf) , the independent and capable out-of-towners of MIG, were able to provide visual reference points for modern and high-quality design. In doing so, they were able to move the discussion from simply rehabbing a park, to creating a great public space worthy of one of the greatest park settings in the country.