As the population of Rathdrum continues to soar by leaps and bounds, community leaders are scrambling to keep up with parkland quotas to satisfy the residents’ growing desire for outdoor activities.
The community’s park inventory will get a tremendous shot in the arm later this summer when city officials dedicate Rathdrum Mountain as public open space.
The sprawling mountain area, although not technically a park, will provide a maintained trail system and ample opportunities for the public to enjoy nature around the mountain, which peaks at just over 5,000 feet.
“We just paved the access road providing main access to the mountain and we’re rolling,” said Eric Singer, Rathdrum’s director of parks and recreation. “We expect to pave the parking lot by mid-July then we’ll be ready for the dedication.”
While the community is excited for the opening of Rathdrum Mountain, Singer said there is an ongoing emphasis to develop more parks in the community, which has grown by a staggering 400 percent since 2000 and now has an estimated population of 10,000 residents.
Singer said there is a need for more developed park space to meet the state criteria of five acres of parkland for every 1,000 people. Based on the current population, Rathdrum would require about 50 acres of park to meet that standard. Singer said his small crew currently maintains about 30 acres of parks, excluding rights-of-way and other public expanses that must be maintained, but are not included as park inventory.
Plans for a large park in the rapidly growing southwest part of town are under way and Singer says that park, when developed, could be as large as 30 acres, making it by far the city’s largest park.
The as-yet unnamed park would boast restrooms, playgrounds, picnic areas, a splash pad basketball courts and green space for soccer and other sporting events. Singer said the city plans to update its park master plan in 2021 and would like to have land acquired for the park by that time.
Currently, the city has seven parks, including its newest addition, Majestic Park, built in 2013, in the southeast part of town.
The city has been able to develop new parks in recent years through impact fees from new development. Those fees also shoulder infrastructure improvements needed for schools, and law enforcement.
Rathdrum Mayor Vic Holmes said the community’s parks system continues to flourish under the watchful eye of city staff and also the volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission.
“The focus and success of community park development in Rathdrum can be traced back to the original commission formed nearly 40 years ago,” Holmes said. “The commission continues to set the standard for the current level of service that we have with our parks.”
While Singer is content with the parks system, he understands there is a need to grow.
“Is there a need for catch-up? What I’d say is that we’re in great shape now and we’ve got a great parks and recreation staff that does an outstanding job,” he said. “Our parks look better today than ever, and they just keep getting better.
“There’s always room and opportunity to grow and we’ll work with city leadership to move in that direction. I wouldn’t say we’re behind, but things are definitely a lot more fast-paced than they were say five to 10 years ago. Planning for the future is definitely key now.”