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Ramrod Tactics Simply Won’t Do

As the cost of North Idaho lake frontage soars, the value of each square foot of public access becomes more precious, too.

That’s why Coeur d’Alene downtown interests have faced stiff opposition each time they’ve made plans to use the public lakeshore for personal gain. Several times over the past 12 years they encountered a firestorm by trying to force a wary public to accept their vision and projects for the Coeur d’Alene waterfront.

We saw that on two occasions 10 years apart when Duane Hagadone and, later, the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce tried to resurrect Lake Coeur d’Alene hydroplane races. We saw it again last winter when Hagadone offered to donate $2 million in honor of his deceased parents to help build a library and botanical garden on McEuen Field, at the foot of Tubbs Hill.

Each time, proponents had some City Council backing but were forced to withdraw their plans in the face of overwhelming public opposition. In fact, Coeur d’Alene voters finally killed the recurring hydroplane proposal by passing a 1996 referendum banning such races.

Now, a financing plan that could make over McEuen Field as part of a downtown revitalization effort is fueling grass-roots discontent again. The City Council should be careful as it prepares to accept the plan next Tuesday. Unless it listens to all parties interested in McEuen Field, it could split the community.

Anne Solomon of the McEuen Preservation Alliance wasn’t speaking idly last week when she warned against a radical McEuen Field make-over: “There will be a sense of loss and anger that will take years to recover.”

Unquestionably, some parts of McEuen Field could be put to a better use. For example, the city could move its Parks and Recreation Department building and the adjacent tennis courts. But the tentative improvements listed in the financing plan, although good individually, would obscure and destroy the playfield. They include an ice skating rink, library and performing arts center.

Downtown activists, of course, find the continuing opposition to their various plans frustrating. “Why,” one asked privately Tuesday, “does everything in Coeur d’Alene have to begin with a fight?”

Some things are worth the fight.

Just think what the north shore would be like today if previous plans by downtown interests had been pushed through without public input.

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

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