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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

With wise ruling, solution possible

The Spokesman-Review

A long time ago, a king was faced with a tough decision when two women appeared before him claiming to be the mother of the same baby.

After mulling the matter over, King Solomon called for a sword. He proposed to slice the baby in half and give each one an equal portion. One woman agreed. The other woman revealed she was the true mother by crying out she preferred to see the baby in the arms of her lying rival than to see it put to death.

No baby is involved in the ongoing struggle for ownership between East Lakeshore Drive homeowners and Sanders Beach users. But a wise decision was handed down by Judge James Judd on Thursday that could provide a way out of the Lake Coeur d’Alene waterfront morass, if both sides truly want one. Judd proposed that the popular beach would be open to the public this summer but policed and regulated by the city of Coeur d’Alene in cooperation with the homeowners.

The beach is to remain open until the court can decide this fall or next winter who owns it – the homeowners or the public.

Judge Judd has provided a chance for all sides to experiment with a possible solution to the Sanders Beach problem – a public-private arrangement in which the stretch of sand is treated like a park, supervised by the city, and owned by homeowners, who would have the weight of law behind them to expel unruly beachcombers.

Sanders Beach is located a short distance east of Tubbs Hill near downtown Coeur d’Alene. It stretches more than three city blocks, from the public entrance at 12th Street past the public entrance at 15th Street to the eastern boundary that the historic Jewett House shares with businessman Duane Hagadone’s golf course property. At that point, the beach stretches another 500 or 600 feet to a fence erected by Hagadone partner Jerry Jaeger.

The beach and the stately homes north of it are separated by East Lakeshore Drive and, in part, by a seawall.

Coeur d’Alene residents have used the beach as a swimming area since the 19th century. After homeowners started building seawalls more than a quarter century ago, they continued to allow the community to use the beach. But some homeowners began resisting efforts by the city and civic organizations to police and clean the beach, fearing those actions would strengthen the community claim to the property. Last summer, animosity between homeowners and beachcombers flared so much that the city sued to determine beach ownership.

Short of fencing off access to Sanders Beach, some homeowners won’t be satisfied.

But Judd’s wise interim decision will give homeowners with open minds a chance to see how a summer of forced generosity works. The city will have the authority to regulate hours, clean litter, police vandalism and open containers, and protect the homeowners’ privacy. In exchange, the homeowners won’t have to spend this summer upset and glaring from living room windows at children who wander onto what they consider to be their portion of the beach.

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