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.
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.
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 on the north side 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 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.
UPDATE 1/24: The Parks Commission approved the recommendation at the meeting and the recommendation now moves to the General Services Committee of the City Council for its consideration.
UPDATE 1/25: Here’s the Coeur d’Alene Press coverage.