A group of lakeside Samaritans is seeking ways to pay for upkeep of the Centennial Trail along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.
The new million-dollar parkway, with its exercise stations, restrooms, picnic tables, boat launch, docks and paved trail, is at risk of being orphaned by the state and falling into disrepair.
No one seems to have the money to maintain or operate the trail. Gov. Phil Batt turned down a state parks department request for $136,200 to maintain it.
“It’s a beautiful facility and heavily used and very popular, but there’s no long-term arrangement for management,” said Coeur d’Alene resident Art Manley. “We thought maybe we can get some help from the county.”
Manley is a member of the Natural Resources Committee, an unofficial volunteer group that formed in the 1960s to advocate outdoor recreation facilities around Lake Coeur d’Alene.
The committee is made up of members from Latah, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai counties and meets once a month.
Some past projects included making Bell Bay campground habitable by finding matching funds to help fix the water system, and the creation of the Mowry boater park across the lake from Harrison.
The group’s latest project is to save the parkway.
“We have an ad hoc committee working on it,” said Tom Townsend, a Moscow resident and chairman of the committee. “We’ve come to no conclusions.”
The original plan was to convince Kootenai County to fund the trail operation with a half-percent levy.
But the county already includes park operations in its levy, and officials are not anxious to increase the levy rate.
“I don’t know that there’s a real willingness on the part of elected officials to increase the levy for any purposes,” said Kootenai County Commissioner Bob Macdonald.
This year, the county budgeted $51,196 for parks and recreation, which rose to $93,851 with a carryover from last year’s budget, said Tom Taggart, county administrator. County boating facilities are financed primarily through $400,000 in boater registration fees.
Given the unwillingness of public officials to raise taxes, the resources group is exploring other funding options, such as user fees.
State parks deputy director Frank Boteler said his agency would welcome a way for the parkway to generate its own revenue. If it could, he said, the Legislature and governor might be more willing to finance some of the operations.
“That makes it more palatable,” Boteler said. “There isn’t an obvious way to do that with this trail.”
For the 1997 fiscal year, the state parks department has money to repair flood damage and some operating money from the Department of Transportation, which built the parkway.
“It looks like we can scrape by,” Boteler said.
In the 1998 fiscal year, the state has only $25,000 for the parkway, which isn’t enough for the “minor maintenance” work that’s done on the park now.
“It needs some work to get all these people involved together - the city, the county and the state - to try to work up some more permanent supporting program to keep this going,” Manley said. “We’re just trying to get things put together like we’ve done over the years.”