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Centennial Trail A Working Legacy

Twenty-five years from now, a new generation will applaud the

foresight of recreationists who pushed hard for the 62-mile Centennial Trail, linking Lake Coeur d’Alene with Spokane’s Riverfront Park.

The trail, already heavily used in some parts, will have become by then an intregal link in a two-state metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the struggle to bring it into existence long will be forgotten.

That’s why it’s important, as each new milestone is reached, to remind ourselves about the hard work and persistence that established the trail. Thursday’s dedication of the five-mile Coeur d’Alene Lake Parkway along picturesque Lake Coeur d’Alene provides an opportunity to reflect.

Construction of the 23-mile North Idaho portion has been particularly difficult.

For starters, trail enthusiasts needed Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s clout to prevent Burlington Northern from selling off a two-mile section of abandoned railroad. The stretch now forms the trail’s appealing Idaho entrance.

Neighborhood squabbles and steadfast opposition from the Post Falls Highway Department and Seltice Way industry created havoc and affected the route. Some residents of one Post Falls subdivision worried that Spokane child molesters on bikes would use the trail to descend on them and their children en masse.

The opposition was so intense at one point that then U.S. Sen. Jim McClure asked the U.S. Forest Service to freeze funding for the trail. He wanted to be sure that trail supporters weren’t lying to him, as some suggested, when they claimed they’d obtained necessary rights of way.

Later, nasty criticism prompted former Kootenai County Commissioner Evalyn Adams, an early trail advocate, to resign from the old Centennial Trail Committee. Then, ex-commission chairman Frank Henderson tried to quell the controversy by suggesting a Band-Aid approach: Designate the Spokane River as a symbolic link between Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls.

Luckily, trail supporters persisted in wanting a concrete connection. Next week, they will advertise for bids on this last, uncompleted stretch of the North Idaho trail, 3.5 miles from state Highway 41 to Atlas Road. It should be completed this fall.

At that time, those who blazed the North Idaho Centennial Trail from the design stage in 1987 until now will deserve the region’s enthusiastic applause.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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