Taking on Tubbs

Proposal would make east side of popular hill more accessible

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SHAWN GUST/Press The city is considering a plan to improve access on the East entrance of Tubbs Hill.

COEUR d'ALENE - The city of Coeur d'Alene's Parks and Recreation Commission is recommending the city alter the east side of Tubbs Hill to make the popular hiking trail more accessible for people with disabilities.

The proposal wouldn't change the landscape of the hill drastically, members of the Accessible Trails Ad Hoc Committee said.

"We're not looking at any major construction or major alterations or anything like that," said George Sayler, Tubbs Hill Foundation and ad hoc committee member. "Our goal all along was that the hill must be kept as natural as possible."

The changes would improve wheelchair accessibility on the downtown hill.

The plan calls for work on around 1,500 feet of trail beginning at the east side entrance near the marina. It would smooth the natural surface and decrease slope grades on portions of the trail from 15 percent grade, down to around 5 percent.

The work would maintain a minimum width on the trail of 48 inches.

Most of it already meets that standard, said Doug Eastwood, parks director. They could add some retaining walls to the very narrow areas.

Trail work would use native soil, he said, and could expand the trail in parts to implement turnouts for wheelchairs.

The affected area would be from the east entrance to just beyond the stationary bridge to the east, where the main trail turns westward. The improvements would follow National Recreation and Park Association accessibility standards.

"It seems very reasonable," said Terry Harris, Kootenai Environmental Alliance director and ad hoc committee member. "Not a whole lot of work needs to be done over there."

Changes would not include paving or blasting.

The Accessible Trails Ad Hoc Committee formed after the city dropped alterations to Tubbs Hill from the McEuen Field conceptual plan on May 24 as the City Council decided whether to adopt the conceptual plan.

It did, but kicked off the Tubbs Hill portions, saying accessibility on the public hill should be considered separately.

The proposal could go before the General Services Committee in February, though it hasn't yet been scheduled. A cost estimate on the work should be ready by then.

The GSC, a sub-committee of the City Council, would recommend whether the City Council should approve moving forward with the changes.

It could be at the council's desk in March, Eastwood said. It could be a three week project done by city employees.

The 15-member committee could also take up how feasible it would be to build a north-face trail connecting the eastern and western entrances, but not until the eastern entrance project is in the books, City Councilman and Parks and Recreation Committee liaison Mike Kennedy said.

"Once the east side is completed, we'll use the experience from that to determine if the north side is a reality," Kennedy said.

The north-side trail plan drew some criticism in the community when it was originally part of the McEuen Field plan. Some said it was too unnatural, requiring too much construction on the popular hiking hill that's intended to be preserved in its original state.

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