The ambitious and hotly debated reconstruction of a major park in downtown Coeur d’Alene is nearly finished.
Part of the new McEuen Park next to Tubbs Hill will open Friday, with the rest of the 20-acre site expected to open a week before Memorial Day.
“It’s been a long, sometimes bumpy road, but I’m very excited about the park we’ll be giving the community,” said Bill Greenwood, the city’s interim parks director.
“I’m anxious about getting out there and having it all done,” Greenwood added.
After more than a year of construction that included rebuilding Front Avenue and tucking parking below the street, some of the fences finally are coming down. Residents initially will have access to a sprawling playground and splash pad, ball courts and a small off-leash area for dogs. They’ll also be able to use new paths circling the park.
Contractors Northwest Inc. is working extra shifts this spring to finish the $20 million project before the resort city’s busy summer. Work on the east end of McEuen is finished, while crews are completing major pieces on the west end, including a grand plaza, a veterans memorial and a 4 ½-acre grassy amphitheater.
All of that is scheduled to open in time for a May 24 ribbon-cutting with former Mayor Sandi Bloem, who guided the project through a contentious planning stage, and her successor, Mayor Steve Widmyer. A public celebration and dedication is planned for July 12 to coincide with Parks Day in the Lake City.
Principal engineer Philip Boyd said the space is grander and more special than planners had envisioned. He’s most excited about seeing the public in the grand plaza next to Lake Coeur d’Alene.
“I can just imagine some event where 500 people are down there enjoying that grand space and looking out over the water,” Boyd said. “I just think that will be the neatest thing to see.”
The piece opening next week includes four basketball courts and two tennis courts that will double as a place to play pickleball, a sport using paddles and a perforated ball.
A large new playground with a children’s climbing rock also will open, along with a summer splash pad next to it. The jets and sprays of water won’t be turned on until warmer weather arrives, likely after Memorial Day.
A small, fenced dog park with separate areas for large and small breeds also is ready to open against the base of Tubbs Hill. That amenity was added to the design thanks to private fundraising.
All grassy areas are being grown from seed, and large sections on the west end will not be ready to walk for a while, officials cautioned.
A large picnic pavilion with restrooms in the center of the park will open with everything else later in May. So will Harbor House, a food concession stand with restrooms at the southwest corner of McEuen, next to the lake and Tubbs Hill trailhead. The city soon will select a food concessionaire to operate out of that building.
The project is wrapping up on schedule and within budget, the city said.
The park features cost about $8.5 million, and $9 million was spent on the rebuild of Front, nearly 550 parking spaces and utility work in and around the site. Another $2.1 million went toward design work.
About 80 percent of the project is financed through an urban renewal district. Critics had questioned dedicating that much tax revenue to public improvements in one place and also faulted the process by which the overall design and list of amenities were chosen.