The incredible rigswallowing boat launch at Higgens Point is being replaced with a kinder, gentler launch designed to lure boaters away from overcrowded boat ramps elsewhere on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
“I’m glad they’re fixing this up,” said state parks ranger Jim Richards as he watched a crane lower a 17,000-pound slab of concrete into the water Thursday.
“They’ve lost several cars in the drink over the years,” he said. “They went right over the edge.”
Construction of the boat launch was delayed for about a month this winter because floodwaters submerged the work area.
“There were logs clear up on the baskets,” Gene Nearing, owner of DJ&S; Construction, said, gesturing to the wire and rock retaining walls.
Nearing didn’t lose anything in the flooding except “a lot of patience,” he said.
He said he expects to be finished with the work within a week. Then, Interstate Concrete will pour asphalt on the ramp above the water.
The site was a roar of activity Thursday as the crew placed the last two concrete slabs in Boat launch/ the water. The new launch is 34 feet wide, big enough to launch “anything short of a Titanic,” said Idaho parks spokesman Aaron W. Nevills., The new year-round ramp replaces an old, narrow ramp that dropped steeply into the water. The end of it disappeared in a 60-foot abyss.
More than one rig has slipped into the lake trying to unload a boat. Complicating matters was a zig-zag in the ramp and a precarious tilt into the watery depths.
“That’s been shunned by boaters over the years,” said Kootenai County Commissioner Bob Macdonald, who sits on the county waterways committee.
“Everybody recognized this, but nobody had any money to do anything about it,” he said.
Then the state Department of Transportation built a large parking area for boaters when the new Interstate 90 was constructed, “and left the best parking lot at the worst launch in the area,” Macdonald said.
The Transportation Department teamed with the state Parks and Recreation Department to develop the recreational trail along the former highway.
When the work was done last summer, officials knew they had to improve the boat launch, but decided to wait until winter, when the lake level was lower.
With $10,000 from the Department of Fish and Game, plus two grants adding up to about $81,000, the Parks Department was able to finance the new ramp.
When it’s done, the ramp is expected to draw crowds away from the Third Street boat dock ramp in Coeur d’Alene, which is over-crowded in the summer. Higgens Point will be one of the few area boat ramps with enough parking to accommodate boaters.
On Thursday, the early season boaters already had filled the boat launch parking lot at Boothes Park, a couple of miles down the road.
“Locals will recognize that as a good place to launch,” Macdonald predicted.
“It’s going to be packed.”
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