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Beachgoers Would Do Better To Try Behaving For A Change

We purchased our home on East Lakeshore Drive in Coeur d’Alene in November 1996 and moved here in January 1997. When we bought the home, we were not made aware of any controversy regarding ownership of the beach.

The property description on our deed clearly states that the property boundary includes the beach on the south side of East Lakeshore Drive, and we, like our neighbors, pay property tax for that piece of sand.

It came as a surprise when we began hearing talk in the neighborhood about ways to control public access to the beach in front of our homes. Before making any judgments, we decided to go through the summer and see for ourselves how the neighbors behind East Lakeshore and the general public actually used the beach.

Meanwhile, I was one of the 998 volunteers who helped build the Fort Sherman Playground in May. My wife and I moved here because we think it’s a special community and we want to be active, contributing participants.

Summer arrived (a bit late, but it made it) and with it there have been several Sanders Beach-related incidents, which we observed firsthand. They range from trash routinely being discarded on the beach in front of our property, broken beer and liquor bottles carelessly left on the sand directly in front of the gate we use to access the beach, and rude, drunken beachgoers screaming foul language in order to be heard over their music, their dogs or their beachmates.

There are no public restroom facilities on or near Sanders Beach. (Need I elaborate?)

We and many others on this street have signs on the beach in front of our property that say, “Private Property; you’re welcome to use our beach. Please do not litter.” Seems like a reasonable request to me.

The popular notion I have heard, and now I’ve read a recent editorial in The Spokesman-Review, is that Sanders Beach should remain/become a public beach for the benefit of community residents. I have no doubt that neighbors behind East Lakeshore Drive use Sanders Beach. In fact, we have met and made friends with some of them. However, on a typical summer weekend, and often during the week, what you find is that the entire length of East Lakeshore Drive between 12th and 15th streets (three blocks), plus the side streets, are solid with cars, trucks and RVs. Out of curiosity, I checked license plates on a recent Sunday and found that of 91 parked cars (including residents’ cars on the side streets), 53 were from Kootenai County, six were from other Idaho counties, 25 were from Washington state and seven were from other states.

The mistaken perception of this being a public beach developed over a long period during which mostly local people did use the beach. That reality has changed, but the mistaken perception of its being public remains and is perpetuated by misguided, uninformed newspaper articles and opinion writers. As a result, many people who come to use the beach show up with a combative attitude, ready to challenge anyone who dares suggest it’s not their absolute right to do whatever they want on this “public beach.”

For example: Sitting on my front porch recently, I watched as a van pulling a small open trailer parked on East Lakeshore in front of our home. Three adults, six children and three large dogs (from the trailer, no leashes) proceeded across my neighbor’s property, which was clearly posted “no trespassing,” to get to the beach.

The area of Sanders Beach at the foot of 12th and the area that runs east from 15th to The Coeur d’Alene Resort golf course in front of the Jewett House are, I am told, public beaches. With the exception of a few trash cans, there are no other public accommodations or lifeguard stations on the beach. Why?

Coeur d’Alene’s elected officials have been characterized as not having the courage to contest East Lakeshore Drive residents’ claim to the beach. Perhaps these officials simply have the facts and rightfully believe that in the United States and in Idaho, personal property rights, private ownership and deeds of trust still mean something.

It has been suggested that Sanders Beach needs to be saved. I believe it simply needs to be respected as private property.

I do not speak for everyone on East Lakeshore Drive, but I do have a few suggestions for those who want to protect against any loss of public access to Sanders Beach from 12th to 15th.

Call and get the facts from a city official instead of an ill-informed editorial writer.

Clean up after yourselves. It’s not our job to pick up your trash.

Leave your dog(s) at home. Dogs are not allowed on the public beach; why are they brought to a private beach?

Use the public access at 12th and 15th, and do not trespass on private property for beach access.

Police yourselves and each other. Consider that you are a guest in the neighborhood.

If you do the graffiti or observe it, stop it. It’s not attractive and it cheapens the entire neighborhood.

If you get out of line or threaten a property owner (which has happened), expect the police to come.

Get together and ask the city to allocate funds for trash removal, restroom facilities, lifeguards and security for the existing public areas of Sanders Beach.

With a little common sense and respect for private property, this issue might just take care of itself.