A more accessible Tubbs Hill

Plan would reduce grade of trail, create wheelchair turnarounds

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COEUR d'ALENE - Make way.

The city of Coeur d'Alene is trekking forward with its plans to alter the east side of Tubbs Hill to make the popular hiking trail more accessible for people with disabilities.

The General Services Committee, a subcommittee of the Coeur d'Alene City Council, recommended Monday the city contract Welch Comer Engineers for $9,000 engineering studies to determine how to improve wheelchair accessibility on the downtown hill.

The proposed project doesn't have anything to do with creating a north trail on Tubbs Hill, which is how it earned its support from the Tubbs Hill Foundation.

"The Tubbs Hill Foundation wanted to make it perfectly clear that the north trail plan isn't" included, Ron Edinger, councilman and foundation member, told the GSC. "If there is any plan on the north trail, we want to be involved."

The north trail was a controversial component of the original McEuen Field plan before the City Council removed it last year.

What is involved in the current project is 1,500 feet of trail at the eastern entrance near the marina.

The plan - called a pilot program - would smooth the natural surface and decrease slope grades on portions of the trail from 15 percent grade, down to around 5 percent, while maintaining a minimum width on the trail of 48 inches. Trail work would use native soil and could expand the trail in parts to implement turnouts for wheelchairs.

Changes would not include paving or blasting.

"I'm encouraged," said Mike Kennedy, councilman and GSC chair, on the improvements gained without disturbing much of the trail's current state.

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.

If approved, engineering services, such as for a topography survey, would be funded from the Parks Capital Improvement Fund, while the city would try to earn a grant to do the trail work itself.

A timetable on when the work would be done hasn't been established.

The Parks and Recreation Commission and Tubbs Hill Foundation have both approved the plan.

Originally, an Accessible Trails Ad Hoc Committee proposed the changes now working its way to the council. That 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.

North trail planning, however, could come up in the future.

The 15-member ad hoc committee could look into how feasible it would be to build a north-face trail connecting the eastern and western entrances on Tubbs Hill.

If it does, it won't be until the eastern entrance project is in the books, which is why it was dubbed a pilot program.

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 natural state.

The plan will go before the City Council at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 in the Community Room of the Coeur d'Alene Public Library.

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