COEUR d'ALENE — Unless you're a lonely boy who befriends an alien, like in the classic film “E.T. — the Extra-Terrestrial,” you can't take flight on a bicycle.
But for more than a decade on a relatively annual basis, a bicycle has seemingly flown 60 feet into the same tree in Coeur d'Alene City Park.
Employees with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department have developed many theories over the years regarding just how bicycles end up in the tree on Park Drive. Some suspect that it's a rite of passage for college pranksters, while others have envisioned the elaborate pulley system that would be required to accomplish the feat.
"It's back," was heard throughout the department when the most recent bike was spotted in the tree about two months ago, said Katie Kosanke, the city’s urban forestry coordinator.
Kosanke told The Press, every time a bike has been placed in the tree it has been secured with a chain. She said there is no rhyme or reason to when or why the bike appears, so the act of vandalism does not appear to be related to Ironman, a triathlon involving swimming, running and cycling. Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene takes place Sunday.
"Somebody really, really likes to keep putting them up there," Kosanke said. "Before it was always a little road bike, but this one is a bigger, chunky mountain bike. We've talked about pruning the tree so there's less branches to climb, but it would probably just show up in another tree."
Although it might seem like a harmless, impressive accomplishment for a group of merry pranksters, Kosanke said the act is anything but. Not only does the bicycle's placement in the tree create a public safety hazard, she said getting the bike down is a headache for city officials as well.
Since the city's cherry picker does not reach the location of the tree where the bike is commonly chained, Kosanke said in the past they've had to call on the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department to use its tower to get it down. However, the vandals responsible for the act have placed the bike even higher in recent years.
This, according to Kosanke, has required the city to use contractors who are working on removing trees or other projects at City Park to accomplish the task. This year, Kosanke said the city will pay an additional $165 to a contractor to remove the bike while the company is at City Park to remove a dead tree.
The location of the bike itself creates a public safety hazard, Kosanke said, especially as the weather turns warmer and more and more people are in and around the park. It can also, she added, affect the health of the tree because the chain can cut the flow of water and nutrients to the upper portion of the tree.
"If that dies off, it would be an even bigger safety hazard," Kosanke said.
Removing a dead tree as large as the one with a bike chained to it can cost more than $1,000.
"But you can't just base the value of the tree on that because the environmental and social value is so much greater than that," Kosanke said. "It would take 40 to 60 years at the very least to replace a tree like that."