Will it float?

Third Street boat launch has generated most comments about MeEuen Field plan

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Edeltraudt Smith, of Spokane, describes what she believes to be benefits of the City of Coeur d'Alene's recent proposal to renovate the McEuen Field area as it relates to the Third Street boat launch.

COEUR d'ALENE - It's No. 1.

Of all the tweaks, shuffles, overhauls and makeovers proposed for McEuen Field, replacing the Third Street boat launch is the topic that ranks at the top of the feedback list.

Both in favor, and against.

Even some who haven't heard about the rest of the park's design, have heard about the possibility of the launch relocating.

"It's ridiculous," said Blaze Julum, at the site earlier this week. "It's a great launch, the most popular one in Idaho."

Tonight is the second public presentation on the park's conceptual plan, which will detail 24 itemized enhancements with the project. But since the plan went public a little over a month ago, some of the most polarizing input has been on the controversial suggestion to swap the city launch with one about a mile away near North Idaho College.

"We're getting lots of written comments on the boat launch," said Dick Stauffer, Team McEuen designer who helped craft the overall plan. "It was expected."

Meanwhile, Team McEuen is crunching the numbers on survey results still coming in. The group is nearing 1,000 written and online surveys submitted, with an approval rating on the scope of the project around 65 percent, Stauffer said.

The boat launch issue has even crossed state borders after the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation sent around 32,000 letters to registered Kootenai County boaters notifying them of the potential change.

On Wednesday, McEuen Field users weighed in too, and unsurprisingly, those opinions crossed the board.

"People would come from all over the world to see it, it wouldn't just be for the boats 'vroom, 'vroom, and the smell of gas and the smoke," said Edeltraudt Smith, visiting with her husband, Bob from Spokane, on the public benefit of replacing the asphalt with green space and other amenities in the park's design. "It's not just about the boaters, they'll have to go further up the lake."

As regular visitors to the park, the couple said the scenery is a draw, but the noise of the boats and cars, a deterrent.

"People will really get used to it when it's done, and then they'll say, 'wow,'" Edeltraudt Smith said.

The proposed new launch would use 3 of the 17 acres owned by NIC on the corridor, and would sit just east of the wastewater treatment plant on the Spokane River.

Preliminary plans include 50 boat parking stalls and 20 stalls for vehicles without trailers.

The Third Street launch now provides 47 vehicle trailer parking stalls.

That plan could coincide with road improvements being planned inside the education corridor to make accessibility easier, said Doug Eastwood, city parks director.

Logistics still need to be worked out with a number of agencies, Eastwood said, but a letter to the parks department from Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Chip Corsi said the relocation idea could be "excellent news" should it work out.

The new site wouldn't affect bull trout spawning grounds, Corsi's Jan. 24 letter said, so that concern can be put aside.

"Assuming that is correct, the permitting process should be straight forward," Corsi said.

But some feel taking away the current access negatively affects too many people.

Ron Dayton is circulating a flier to save the boat launch.

The Spirit Lake man wants as many people aware of the proposal as possible, to see if the park can be designed around keeping the launch where it is.

"I can see they put a lot of thought to the park: It's a beautiful thing. If they could have done that without invading the boat launch, it would have been better," he said, adding that he handed out the flier at the Spokane National Boat show earlier this week. "I'm hoping they're willing to compromise," he said of the design team. It's a two-way street."

Another public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 at the same time and location. The exact format hasn't been worked out, but will involve public comment on all parts of the project.

Once all the public input is gathered, Team McEuen will take those insights and come back with a finished design.

If the changes are minor, Stauffer said, it could only involve some new sketching. If they're major, like incorporating the launch, the planning process would likely need to start over.

All the collected input will be turned over to the City Council, which will likely have the final vote.

"It's fairly convenient for me, so I'd like it to stay," said boater Jim Kravik on Wednesday about the launch, checking on his docked boat at the marina. "But maybe the other (boat launch) would be better, you never know."

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