Forward and Upward
It’s official: the appeal hearing originally scheduled for December 19, 2019 has been canceled, and the appeal put on hold. The best part is that the Cancourse will remain open, thanks to the City of Coeur d’Alene and the Cancourse owners agreeing to create a formal cooperative agreement for recreation management. Read on for details.
In June, 2019 the Kootenai County Community Development Department received a complaint regarding unpermitted site disturbance, lack of a conditional use permit, and lack of parking. The county did not pursue the site disturbance complaint. However, it did choose to interpret the county code in a way that defines the Cancourse as a “privately owned outdoor recreation facility open to public use”, which requires a conditional use permit. We disagreed over this code interpretation and after careful consideration decided not to apply for a conditional use permit. In September, 2019 came the notice of violation, and our appeal followed in October, 2019.
If the threat of Cancourse closure to the public is news to you, you may want to skim our now-obsolete call to action, as well as background information regarding the Stop Work sign that signaled the start of public proceedings. For the morbidly curious, there are hundreds of pages of related documents to peruse, including the original complaint and a huge show of public support for the appeal in the form of submitted comments (with a small minority of dissenting comments mixed in).
The Coeur d’Alene City Park called Canfield Mountain Natural Area directly abuts the Cancourse, and many people enjoy hiking through both in order to reach the top of Canfield Mountain. Couer d’Alene has long had an interest in preserving this access, with management goals that are practically indistinguishable from those of the Cancourse owners. When Parks and Recreation staff learned of this threat to continued access, they suggested we might be able to collaborate in a way that transfers regulatory responsibility from the county to the city and addresses many of the concerns raised, in particular enforcement of safety concerns and management of public parking. For example, camping and campfires are prohibited, and Couer d’Alene is much more capable of enforcement than we are as private land owners.
There are only a few additional restrictions imposed by city park regulations, none of which we consider onerous:
- No glass containers
- No alcohol
- No smoking
- Solid animal waste must be packed out
- Hours of operation are 5am-11pm
The Cancourse will remain a productive timberland first and foremost. We will continue to obliterate unsustainable trails as they are obsoleted, and reincorporate these areas into the forest as part of ongoing restoration efforts. Cancourse and Coeur d’Alene goals are very similar regarding trail connectivity, sustainability, and maintenance. We expect this collaboration to accelerate efforts to improve trail quality and variety, and forest health will likely improve faster as well.
When we, the current owners, purchased the land and named it the Cancourse, we knew that we much preferred the vision of a healthy forest open to the public, over an exclusive residential neighborhood with exclusive views. We weren’t so naive as to think everyone would share this vision, but we were shocked to face vehement opposition. For a time we had a nagging worry that we had made a decision on behalf of the community that somehow missed the mark. Now we know better.
Over 90% of people who commented on the appeal supported keeping the Cancourse open to the public without additional regulation, and it is reasonable to infer that support is even higher in the county as a whole. The Cancourse is just one piece in the puzzle that comprises public access to the amazing geography that surrounds us, and strong community support has clearly indicated that we collectively care very much about access. To all of you who share this vision, whether individuals, organizations, or governments, thank you for working hard to make it a reality. To you who do not currently share this vision, we hope you will come around, and perhaps even enjoy the view from the Cancourse.