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After several months of study and discussion, tonight (Monday) the City of Coeur d’Alene’s Parks and Recreation Commission will officially consider a consensus recommendation to retrofit a Tubbs Hill trail to accommodate wheelchair accessibility.

Last spring, the City Council separated Tubbs Hill from the McEuen Park project and formed a task force to take a comprehensive look at Tubbs Hill trails. The task force, which included representatives from the Tubbs Hill Foundation, KEA, and the disability community, met through the fall. At the final meeting in December, the group unanimously agreed to recommend that the existing east side trail become the first wheelchair-accessible trail on Tubbs Hill. Meanwhile, the task force also unanimously recommended that any further consideration of a new, north-side trail, be tabled until the east-side trail is completed.

Meanwhile, although routes across the north side of Tubbs Hill were also reviewed for feasibility, the task force decided to postpone any further consideration of the north side until the east side was completed. With feasibility less certain, with aesthetic concerns more acute, and with still-uncertain connections to the rest of the trail system and McEuen Park, the task force thought it more prudent to drop further consideration for the time being. Indeed, the work on the east side is likely to inform any future decision-making for the north side, and the City would do well to learn from the east side experience first before constructing something new.

The existing East Tubbs Trail originates at the parking lot on 10th street, follows the lake above the marina, and intersects the main trail. With relatively simple and inexpensive retrofits at several points along the way, the trail would be wheelchair accessible out to marker #14 or so. As able-bodied hikers already know, the trail provides excellent views of the Lake through a nice forest canopy.  As part of the project, surface smoothness, trail width, uphill and downhill slopes, cross-slopes and trail widths along the way would be constructed or reconstructed, if necessary, to accommodate accessibility standards. Based on a fairly detailed segment-by-segment feasibility review, and a site-visit last summer, it appears that the accommodation can be done with relatively minimal reconstruction and expense.

The Parks Board will take up the task force recommendation at its meeting tonight at 5:30 at the Coeur d’Alene Library and will forward a recommendation to the City Council.

 

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The one thing we know all too well in our small office, we can’t do what we do without community support. And we have a remarkable community we have in North Idaho. This Thanksgiving holiday, we’d like to point out some of the ways that people have come together this year to make our great region even greater.

With an outpouring of support from paddlers, anglers, and local residents, we were successful in securing more permanent protection of Cougar Bay on Coeur d’Alene Lake for wildlife and quiet recreation. Community members and KEA pitched in with Kootenai County Parks and Waterways to better delineate a no-wake zone across the bay while protecting many of the historic pilings for osprey habitat.

KEA and community members rallied – as we always do – to protect Tubbs Hill from unnecessary intrusion, but we also worked cooperatively to create new opportunities for wheelchair access to Coeur d’Alene’s amazing natural amenity. Currently, KEA is working with literally thousands of local residents who want to protect the trees along the dike road and who oppose the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision calling for their removal.

This past summer, community members joined us at KEA in launching the region’s first “floating treatment wetland” in a pond above Hayden Lake in a demonstration pilot project to restore water quality. If our water monitoring shows success, these wetlands may be employed along docks and shorelines to help clean up Lakes and other waters throughout North Idaho.

Beyond traditional conservation and restoration, our volunteer-fueled Community Roots local food program just completed another great growing season. Thousands of pounds of local fresh food from backyard gardeners and local farms were distributed to food assistance facilities throughout Coeur d’Alene through our Local Food Share program. A good portion of the shared food was harvested in the Shared Harvest Community Garden at 10th and Foster, which completed its third successful volunteer summer. And our unique Roots CSA completed another successful year in Dalton Gardens, helping to make community supported agriculture subscriptions available to low-income members of our community.

We point all of this success out to make a broader point. There will always be lakes and waterways to clean up, landscapes and resources to be protected and, unfortunately, people in our community who will be hungry.  In that sense, our work is ongoing and endless. But what makes it most rewarding for us at KEA is our community’s capacity for making things better.  With every year, with every project, and with every challenge, people in North Idaho step up and help out. Ours is a great community. And for this, this Thanksgiving, we give our sincere thanks.

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KEA candidate forums are a tradition as long as our 39-year run of noon meetings at the Iron Horse. We continue the tradition this coming Thursday with a forum for Coeur d’Alene City Council candidates.  

Sure, the City Council is not exactly the federal EPA, but their local decision-making authority can have a significant impact on the environment. And local environmental issues have a significant impact on local citizens.  And we don’t think we’re overstating it. Consider, for example, McEuen Park, Tubbs Hill, the dike road trees, and the sewage treatment plant.

KEA firmly believes that voters should have an accurate understanding of the position of each candidate running for office.  Our members are deeply concerned with local and regional environmental issues such as development, parkland, water quality, and open space.  (Our members are also voters.)  As a community-based nonprofit organization, it is our responsibility to raise awareness of and facilitate discussion concerning issues important to our members and community residents.  A public forum for all candidates to share their priorities regarding our community has been an effective means of achieving this goal for some 39 years, and we hope you will participate this year.

As you might imagine, we have a few questions we want to ask, but we’re also taking suggestions. If you have an environmental-related question, send it to me at terry @ kealliance [dot] org.

 

 

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Rosenberry Trees Petition

By popular demand: download a copy here, circulate it to friends and neighbors, and return it to us at KEA!

UPDATE: Here’s the online version. Link to it, email it, post it to your facebook friends!

 

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Intern Kayla  Baker reports on the excellent IdaH2O Master Water Steward program she attended last month. Programs like these (including forestry and master gardening) at the University of Idaho Extension could be threatened in the Kootenai County budget process.

The IdaH2O Master Water Steward Program, offered by the University of Idaho Extension, is only a year old but shows promise in educating North Idaho citizens about water quality monitoring. From my experience with the program, I believe that it is an excellent opportunity to immerse oneself in the health of our local water systems. In just a day, citizen volunteers learn how to assess streams and lakes on a number of bases: habitat (riparian and canopy cover, streambed substrate, human use, etc.), physical (water transparency, stream width and depth, stream velocity, etc.), chemical (water pH levels, dissolved oxygen levels, amount of nutrients such as nitrate and phosphorous), and biological (survey of present invertebrates).

The program’s lecture portion is to the point and is enlightening. I feel the most important thing one will learn from this seminar is how human use of water can impair water quality; for example, the overuse of fertilizers containing phosphorous or nitrate can lead to a lack of oxygen in the water, which is dangerous for the aquatic ecosystem as a whole. Following the lecture period, volunteers are given a hands-on experience to apply themselves in a local stream. This is important for program goers, as they are given the optional task of carrying out annual water monitoring on a stream of their choice, and are given all the tools required to carry out the monitoring. The IdaH2O program hopes that the data collected by their certified water stewards will someday help agencies institute standards for water quality in the area.

I was very fortunate to take part in the program due to my internship at the Kootenai Environmental Alliance. After taking a course in Environmental Science at North Idaho College, I find the IdaH2O program to be a great supplement in a hands-on and more personal way. Personally, my favorite aspect of the course was biological assessment, as I hope to become a wildlife biologist in the future. It is important to me to see that our water systems have an appropriate amount of biodiversity in order to keep a healthy balance of life, and it is essential that close attention is paid to organisms that serve as indicators of environmental health.

With what I have gained from this program, I hope to make a change as a student. I am currently forming a student environmental group at North Idaho College, and I am planning to start a water monitoring site and include student members in assessment. This will hopefully culminate in a campus-based campaign to raise awareness of how to keep our watershed healthy.

I am glad to have the opportunity to take this class, and I hope that many citizens will take a little time to discover how truly important water is, and hopefully to discover our true duty as stewards to our community and our planet.

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Big milestones were reached this past week with our wonderful Roots CSA  in Dalton Gardens.

First, after a late start to the growing season, the CSA team delivered a first round of produce to regular and low-income subscribers: bitter greens (bagged), Asian greens, kale, mustard greens (twine bundle), broccoli, bunching onions, lettuce, spinach, salad greens mixed assortments, cabbage, raddish, and red leaf lettuce. As a result, some totally awesome salads are being made throughout North Idaho this week.

Second, the first annual Roots BBQ Cook-off event is sold out.  One possible explanation — that there’s a mid-summer BBQ shortage – could explain the demand for tickets. Mostly, we think our volunteers did a great job with ticket sales. Buy them early next year. (Same goes for the upcoming and always-sold-out Dinner Under the Stars at the Shared Harvest Garden.)

 

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Our Friends at Friends of the Clearwater give us the update:

The Idaho Transportation Department has issued (2) permits for Exxon/Imperial Oil mega-loads to travel north on US 95 and will be escorted by two Idaho State Police officers, two pilot cars, and three flagging/signing crews. The loads cannot exceed 30mph and are required to pull over every 15 minutes to relieve traffic. Permits go into effect on Monday June 27th.

The first mega-load to travel north from the Port of Lewiston will be 208 feet long, 23 feet wide, 13.5 feet tall and weigh over 400,000 lbs. It is permitted to travel between 10:00pm – 5:30am. Cost for the permit was $317.00. The second mega-load is 14 feet wide and other dimensions are not known. It will however be permitted to travel during day-light hours. Cost for the second permit was $28.00.

Meanwhile, the editors of the Coeur d’Alene Press say, and we quote: “Let the trucks roll.”

As we commented at the Press’s website: We’re no fans of the Alberta tar sands project, but we’re under no illusions that we’ll stop it here in Coeur d’Alene at the intersection at Walnut Ave. But the Press misses the point here. There WERE problems on Highway 12 — with delays up to an hour and power knocked out to rural areas. ITD issues permits but there are no consequences for non-compliance. The Press says “If problems do surface, the state can prevent future trips.” but I don’t think anyone really believes that. It certainly hasn’t happened yet.

It’s not the 15 minute delay that we’re worried about, but the hour delay that happens anyway. It’s not waiting in traffic behind a load at 2:13 am, but trying to sleep in the neighborhood where the traffic gets backed up at 2:13 am practically every night this summer with two Idaho State Police officers, two pilot cars, and three flagging/signing crews.

These are significant intrusions and should be given more scrutiny than a rubber stamp on a $317 permit.

 

 

 

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