Despite overwhelming public opposition to a library and botanical gardens that would displace popular McEuen Field, the Coeur d’Alene Public Library board avoided taking a stand Thursday afternoon.
That means the Lake City’s hottest political issue bounces back to the Parks and Recreation Commission, at least in the eyes of the library board.
The library board wanted to make the public aware of the offer of a generous potential gift and has done so. “My view is it is not up to us to do anything,” said Scott Reed, a library board member.
“There was genuine and sincere opposition that had lots to do with things that weren’t the library,” Reed said. “That’s why I don’t think we need to do anything.”
Reed’s comments came during an emergency meeting of the library board, called to discuss public response to a proposal to build the Hagadone Memorial Library and Botanical Gardens east of The Coeur d’Alene Resort on what now is McEuen Field.
Despite vehement opposition to the plan, many people emphasized they are all for a bigger, better library. The library board seized on that sentiment.
“I think it’s encouraging that almost every speaker spoke positively on behalf of the library,” said board member Kathleen Sayler.
Some members of the public, including Charlie Roan, were at the library board meeting to make it clear they support the library but can’t swallow the grand plan for McEuen Field.
“No one’s against the library,” Roan said. “It’s the location; it’s the package.”
Donald Smock, another board member, worried aloud that the library board hasn’t done an adequate job of educating the public about the need for a new library.
Other board members expressed concern that so many people believe it would be less expensive for the library to expand its existing building on Harrison Avenue than to break ground elsewhere. Figures were not provided Thursday.
But part of the negative equation involves displacing people living in nine homes near the library, the board said. Those homes would have to be removed for the library to have adequate expansion room.
Reed suggested the library board hold a public forum, similar to the one Thursday, to discuss possible library locations.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear what will happen to the McEuen Field proposal. As the offer stands, businessman Duane Hagadone would donate $2 million to the $6 million project.
Hagadone, who owns the resort and the Coeur d’Alene Press, also offered to establish a trust fund for upkeep of the gardens.
But Tuesday evening, hundreds of local residents turned out at a Parks and Recreation Commission hearing on the concept. Most opponents won’t accept the offer to move the softball, baseball, basketball, tennis, picnic and playground facilities.
Many expressed a strong sentimental attachment to the property. Others said there are problems with expecting neighborhood children to get to Ramsey Road fields, north of Interstate 90.
Boaters of all kinds also oppose the long-term part of the plan that would close the Third Street boat launch, one of the busiest public boat launches in Idaho.