COEUR d'ALENE - While the details have shifted, the big picture remains the same.
The only question left to answer may be what the best use of the land would be.
On one condition:
The 29 acres stretching from Memorial Field to Riverstone, must be preserved for public space.
"You could have soccer fields out here," said Doug Eastwood, parks director, as he toured the land Tuesday and began brainstorming on what could one day develop on the stretch between Riverstone and City Park. "You could have just about anything."
First things first.
After years of planning with several different agencies, the city of Coeur d'Alene is ready to gain control of the parcel, which was once old railroad line running west of Northwest Boulevard and through the education corridor.
That's because Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company abandoned 1.25 miles of railroad tracks on the property, which gave the land over to the Bureau of Land Management, which doesn't want it.
The BLM said the property would be better served under local control, not federal, so it's willing to lease it to the city for a "reduced price."
Managing land inside urban areas doesn't fit the department's mission, said Kurt Pavlat, BLM field manager in the Coeur d'Alene office, so it wants to cut the city a deal.
"It would be very advantageous" for the city, Pavlat said.
To gain control, the city must apply through the BLM to lease the land, called a "Recreation and Public Purpose With an Option for Patent." The city is preparing to do so, and appears to be the only applicant. If approved, the lease would eventually give the land to the city.
As part of that application, the city must describe what it plans on doing with the space, which runs 200 feet wide and runs along the Spokane River at points. No commercial development allowed: It's for the public only.
That's where brainstorming comes in.
Street tree arboretum, sports fields, public gardens, commuter trails - the question becomes, what would people like to see there?
"It's an incredible opportunity to start thinking about," Eastwood said.
After filing an application, the city will form a steering committee to identify in more detail what could crop up, and where.
Terms of the original deal, which had been years in the making, also involved the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation and Lake City Development Corp., the city's urban renewal agency.
Through that deal, BLM was to get roughly five miles of the adjacent Prairie Trail, which was developed because the nonprofit NICTF borrowed $2.5 million from LCDC to buy the $6 million parcel below market value. LCDC was to get the 29 acres through the trade.
But the BLM doesn't want the Prairie Trail either, so that should leave the NICTF with the trail, and the 29 acres leased to the city. Meanwhile, LCDC executive director Tony Berns said in an email that the agency is currently working "on the best possible solution for the Prairie Trail remaining a long-term community public treasure."
As for the 29 acres of old BNSF land now?
Railroad ties have been removed, trees and shrubs thinned, trash cleaned up and an old warehouse knocked down, as the city cleans up the land to better gauge the parcel's footprint.
"That surprised me," Eastwood said, looking over the size of the piece near the Spokane River. "I didn't realize it was that big."