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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Cherry Hill tranformation

The 33 acres surrounding and including the popular Cherry Hill sledding hill is going through an exciting transformation. The city of Coeur d’Alene purchased the property in 1999, and soon it will be the home of an improved sledding hill, BMX bike racing track just north of the sledding area, six tennis courts, a full-size basketball court with baskets on each end, year-round unisex toilets with electricity and, eventually, the 9/11 Cherry Hill Memorial Park.

There will be two entrances to the park, one off 15th Street, another off Hazel Street. A two-tier parking lot will accommodate up to 200 cars. The upper parking lot serves the BMX track.

“We had a lot of complaints from the residents that during the sledding season that everyone would gather right here,” said city Parks Director Doug Eastwood, referring to the top of the hill on Hazel Avenue “They would stand out in the street.”

The Parks Department has fenced it off and has also built a platform for the launching of sleds. Once a sledder reaches the bottom, a newly constructed berm will direct them to the side, preventing them from walking back up the middle of the hill and getting hit by another sledder coming down the hill.

The BMX track was designed by the Coeur d’Alene BMX Association. The group lost its old location at what was once the Go-Kart Family Fun center on Seltice when the business was sold. The BMX association supplied the labor and resources for the track and is giving it to the city. The group also donated $10,000 in cash for parks to be used however the Parks Department wants, according to Eastwood.

“These folks came to us about seven years ago,” Eastwood said. “They said ‘We have a place but we’re going to lose it.’ They needed several acres; they said that if we could provide a place for the BMX track to be built, that they would supply all the labor and resources and dedicate it to the city. They’re great partners.”

He said it will be a first-class BMX park when they are done.

The 9/11 Memorial Park is just in the beginning design stages. It started with a phone call to Eastwood from Kenny Gabriel, the Coeur d’Alene fire chief. He had an idea to clean up an old firetruck to be used in the playground. Eastwood said that a few days later he had another call from Gabriel asking him what he would think if he could get a piece of the World Trade Center.

The park working group was expanded to include members of the Police Department, an architect and interested citizens. Eastwood had learned at a national parks and recreation conference that some companies that sell playground equipment can custom-make a playground firetruck, which would be safer than using an actual old firetruck. The old firetruck will be used to grace the entrance to the entire complex.

“So what developed is this 9/11 Cherry Hill Memorial Park,” Eastwood said. “It has taken on the emergency theme.”

An enormous fire helmet slide, approximately 12 feet high and 20 feet in diameter, will be built locally. A faux police car will house play equipment for the tiny tots, and “police motorcycles” will have springs to ride back and forth.

The 9/11 memorial will feature a fountain, with the piece of the World Trade Center as the focal point.

The memorial park is the only part of the Cherry Hill complex that is not financed or budgeted. Eastwood and Gabriel are raising funds for the project and have already received $20,000 from the Panhandle Kiwanis. The Parks Department matched the donation with another $20,000.

“What we need for the whole playground is $70,000,” Eastwood said. “I think the whole thing (project) is upward of $250,000.”

He emphasized that local taxpayer dollars will not be used. Organizers will go after state and federal grants and partnerships, such as the BMX association.

“We have 17 parks in Coeur d’Alene,” Eastwood said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve built 13 of them. Of those 13, only one was built with taxpayer dollars.”

On either side of the piece of the World Trade Center will be memorials to all of the fallen firefighters and police in Idaho. The backdrop for the memorials will be large cherry trees.

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