A new path to 'freedom'

Wheelchair access installed at City Beach

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City of Coeur d’Alene Parks Department workers Toby Council, left, and Jarrod O’Dell install solar-powered lights on the edges of a new handicap-accessible boardwalk at the city beach near Independence Point Monday during their shift.

COEUR d'ALENE - A wheelchair to the beach? Down to the shoreline? Yes, actually, at City Beach.

Such access had been requested over the years in Coeur d'Alene, and it finally became a reality Monday.

"We never really had a plan for how we were going to do it," Parks and Recreation Director Steve Anthony said Monday.

But he found a plan, and it's one that was endorsed by the Disability Action Center.

The portable, lighted, L-shaped pathway can be adjusted for water levels. The pathway stretches 60 feet down toward the water from the sidewalk and runs for 80 feet along the shoreline.

"The freedom that gives is just enormous," said Virgil Edwards, Disability Action Center's independent living trainer.

A lack of access can leave people feeling "pushed away" and "unwanted," Edwards said.

"There's quite a few folks here who will be able to use it," he said. "It's an opportunity for people who have mobility issues, who can now be with family and friends to enjoy the water."

"The idea is people in wheelchairs can bring their families down now and actually be on the waterfront, instead of up on the sidewalk," Anthony said. "We're planning on leaving it out as long as we can."

Coeur d'Alene Sunrise Rotary Club and Idaho Panhandle Kiwanis each donated $1,000 for the project and the city used settlement funds from dam relicensing from Avista Utilities to pay the balance of $13,000.

The construction was completed by the city.

Next summer, a transfer station will be installed that helps wheelchair users and others to get into the water with another person's assistance, Anthony said.

It won't be installed for the remainder of this summer because it was damaged in shipping, he said.

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