Sanders Beach is open for the summer, and the rules will apply to everyone, including homeowners whom police now can ticket for swimming after hours or cracking open a cold beer on a hot day.
Retired Judge James Judd, who had been appointed to hear the dispute, finalized the rules on Friday for the Coeur d’Alene beach between 12th and 15th streets. The rules will be in effect until a final decision is made about who owns the popular beach. That trial is scheduled to start Oct. 11 and last three weeks.
The rules treat Sanders Beach like any other city park. The public can use the beach below the seawalls on the south side of East Lakeshore Drive between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day. Homeowners are prohibited from kicking people off.
“This certainly ought to eliminate the major complaints the homeowners had about late-night parties, drinking, litter and all those terrible things they said were happening down there,” said Scott Reed, who represents the Sanders Beach Preservation Association that fights for public use. “It should reduce that tension.”
The temporary ruling gives Coeur d’Alene the clear authority to enforce city laws for such things as trespassing, free-running dogs and having open containers of alcohol.
The Police Department will include the beach in its summer patrol, meaning foot and bike officers will do periodic checks.
All the laws and hours will apply to Sanders Beach homeowners, a decision that wasn’t supported by the homeowners or preservation association.
Attorney Mike Haman, who represents the city and county, said it would “send a bad message” if some people were allowed to drink on the beach, let their dogs run or swim after hours, and others weren’t.
“The police have a tough enough job ahead,” he said.
Reed said he argued for an exemption that would have allowed the homeowners to use the beach at night, drink alcohol on the shore, exercise their dogs and have fire pits. Attorney John Magnuson, who represents the majority of the homeowners, had a similar proposal.
“Our feeling was that in the interest of harmony and long-term progress they should be allowed to do (as they were in previous summers),” Reed said.
The order also requires the city Parks Department to include the beach in its annual cleanup program that starts in May and then provide regular maintenance.
The preservation association has agreed to assist with the cleanup, which Reed said will be a type of “adopt-the-beach program,” in which volunteers will pick up garbage every week.
Until now, the city has declined to enforce at Sanders Beach the laws in place at city parks because it was unclear whether the beach was public or private. That stance infuriated the dozen property owners who contend that people abuse the beach by leaving trash, using foul language and partying all night.
The result has been heated conflicts between homeowners and beach users — confrontations that city officials feared would turn violent this summer.
That’s why Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County filed the lawsuit asking a judge to determine the legal high-water mark on Sanders Beach. The high-water mark shows where private land ends and where publicly owned beach begins, which would determine whether the beach is public or private.
No court has ever made an exact determination.
Magnuson said he plans to ask Judd this week to allow him to appeal the ruling that opens the beach to public use until a decision is made. If Judd grants an appeal, it will go to the Idaho Supreme Court.
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