I recently read a letter that was penned by three individuals; Barbara Fillmore, Linda Wright and Barbara Zimmer. I am disappointed in the context of the letter as it has many erroneous and misleading statements. I am a member of the Coeur d'Alene community and I have a disability which, at times, makes it difficult for me to get around and/or access some of the city's open space parks.
Approximately 20 percent of our community's population has one type of disability or another and those disabilities make it difficult to do the things that most people take for granted. We have made a very simple request of the city and that is to consider creating an accessible trail to the open space areas so we too can enjoy the great views and vistas.
It seems as though these folks, the letter writers that I mentioned, have made it their mission to not allow people with disabilities onto publicly owned open space parks.
Their letter states that Tubbs Hill is for public enjoyment of its natural setting and the city has not allowed any man-made additions like benches, signs, trash cans, restrooms or paved pathways. That is a partially accurate statement and I am sure the most important part was intentionally left out.
Tubbs Hill has several miles of man-made trails, man-made retaining walls, man-made wooden stairs, a man-made suspension bridge, and a man-made stationary bridge. There are man-made signs at all entrances to the hill and throughout the entire 2-mile man-made interpretive primary hiking trail. There is a man-made city road on Tubbs Hill with man-made street lights and there are several man-made houses on Tubbs Hill.
The letter alludes to things that should not be allowed like benches, trash cans, restrooms and paved pathways. None of those things are part of a proposed access trail so why allude to the idea that they are?
There has never been a suggestion by those with disabilities, or by the design team, to pave any trails or construct restrooms on Tubbs Hill. An accessible trail can look just as natural as any other trail on Tubbs Hill and can be done without steep inclines and without noticeable intrusions upon the hill.
The surface of the path would be made of natural materials. The proposed area is in one of the least-used parts of the hill and access to enjoy the views and vistas goes beyond access for those of us with disabilities. It also benefits our senior population and younger generation including the mom or dad who might want to take their young child onto the hill.
Barbara, Linda and Barbara, you have had over two miles (10,520 feet) of primary trail constructed for your benefit with even more miles of secondary trails all over the hill. This proposal, by scale, is approximately 900 feet in length and will likely not be visible unless you are walking on it.
Ladies, you also referred to the Third Street entrance as a 'natural' path. The Third Street entrance to Tubbs Hill is the main entrance onto the hill and it is not 'natural;' that entry has been rebuilt and re-aligned at least three times in the past 20 years and material was imported for the surface of the pathway.
Your letter also goes on to say that a trail on the lower portion of the north face of the hill would require blasting in order for it to be built. Come on now, why would you think it is necessary to make such statements? I will make an assumption here that none of you are trail designers, planners, or engineers nor have you ever done any trail design, trail construction or trail maintenance.
The current trail system on Tubbs Hill was constructed for your use and you never complained about retaining walls, bridges, stairs and other man-made improvements that provide access for people to walk on the hill. Tell me why it is OK to construct those man-made improvements for your enjoyment and then deny the same opportunity to others?
Please, stop insulting us and stop implying that we are not as worthy as you to have access to our public spaces. Some of us were born with our disabilities; others got them by accidents, diseases, and in some cases war. We are not any less of a person and we do not deserve to be treated as though we should not have the same opportunities that you do.
Other things such as pocket gardens, a stage, a dog park and viewing platforms are also identified in your letter as being proposed to be on Tubbs Hill.
I have attended the public meetings and I have studied the design concepts and there is not now, nor was there ever, a proposal or design to put pocket gardens, a stage or a dog park on Tubbs Hill. Once again I am not sure of your motive when you state that these types of things are being introduced when they are not, and have not been, a part of, the concept. All of those items are included in the McEuen Park concept and on, or within, McEuen Park but they are not on Tubbs Hill as you have stated in your letter. There was discussion about a possible viewing platform along the proposed trail but that has been taken off the plan as it was deemed not necessary.
I understand that the design team met with you recently and assured you that those things such as paving and structures were not included in the project and yet you would imply that those things are; why? It has been explained to you and shown to you that pocket gardens, a dog park and a stage are not being proposed on Tubbs Hill yet you continue to say they are. One of you spoke to the design team earlier in the process and told them to tell those of us with disabilities to go somewhere else. I and a lot of other people do not understand that attitude in today's society. What do you have against us? Keep in mind it is you who have built trails and structures on Tubbs Hill in excess of anything that we are asking for and yet you want to exclude us from the same enjoyments that are provided.
Virgil Edwards is a member of the Disability Action Center.