On the afternoon of Friday the 13th, Kootenai County staff posted a Stop Work sign at the Shadduck Terminus entrance to the Cancourse. News travels fast, much faster than an accompanying notice that is presumably on its way to the Cancourse owners via certified mail. We have heard concerned questions from numerous Cancourse visitors over the past three days. Although we don’t yet have all the answers, we can provide some context and likely next steps.
Stop Work sign, posted at the Shadduck Terminus entrance to the Cancourse on Friday the 13th. The sign template appears to be primarily designed for construction projects; there is no “work” that the county is objecting to, and as such, the scary verbiage regarding criminal prosecution is irrelevant.
The Kootenai County Community Development Department opened an investigation on the Cancourse in late June or early July, purely as reaction to a complaint that a resident filed. These are your county tax dollars working for the complainant, and we have good reason to infer that the complainant does not have county interests in mind.
We do not yet know with certainty the complainant’s identity because anonymity is provided until the investigation is closed, but we do know that particulars of the complaint match closely with an email we received from Don Crawford. Given his repeated verbal abuse that preceded the email, we interpreted it as a veiled threat to weaponize regulatory agencies unless we agreed to permanently prohibit access to the Cancourse via the Shadduck Terminus. How did we get to such a point?
Don Crawford’s driveway begins where the paved portion of Shadduck ends, and it parallels a city public right of way. The driveway is inadequately marked/fenced/gated to prevent people mistakenly using it as a public thoroughfare, and encroachments remain routine (many of which are automobiles in our limited observations). In late 2018, Don Crawford expressed concerns about motorized access to the Cancourse, and as this was a concern of ours as well, we agreed to contact the city and request signage to limit motorized access. Chris Bosley, the Coeur d’Alene City Engineer, was very helpful, and he agreed to place signage to prohibit motorized traffic on the unpaved portion of Shadduck, as well as signage to prohibit parking near the end of the pavement so that cars can turn around. He was conservative with the signage design such that it addressed existing issues, but he made it clear that signage could be adapted if usage changes significantly (your city tax dollars being responsibly put to work).
Surprisingly, this is when Don Crawford escalated communications and started with the verbal attacks. He deemed the signage unacceptably permissive, and he repeatedly demanded that we coerce the city to put signage in place that would meet his requirements. These demands became increasingly shrill, sometimes mixed with demands to prohibit access to the Cancourse via the Shadduck Terminus, and we eventually refused outright to harass city staff on his behalf.
This brings us to the aforementioned email we interpreted as a veiled threat. Our response to this threat was to remove temporary fencing at the Shadduck Terminus, post the same signage that already existed at several other Cancourse access points, and mount game cameras to monitor mode, volume, and points of access. We had previously planned to first build a barrier that would physically prevent motorcycle incursion, but we rearranged our planning so as to defy the threat.
A perplexing violation
Our first meeting with the Kootenai County Planning Office was in late July, and we learned then that if we did not either apply for a conditional use permit or shut the Cancourse to public access, the Cancourse would be declared in violation of county code. We have two unreconcilable objections to either of these options:
- The Cancourse is a commercial timberland first, and a trail system second.
It does not fall within the code’s definition of outdoor recreation facility.
It has no capital improvements, nor is it a place of assembly, in stark
contrast to all the examples given in the definition.
8.9.304: DEFINITIONS - O: […] OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL FACILITIES: Areas designed for active recreation, whether publicly or privately owned, which may include, without limitation, baseball diamonds, soccer and football fields, golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, outdoor riding arenas, and similar places of assembly for outdoor recreational activities. This definition shall also include private recreational facilities accessory to single- or multiple-family dwelling properties.
- The rationale provided for distinguishing the Cancourse from every other private land parcel that allows limited access is “too much advertising”. In particular, the signs posted at entry points and the very website you are reading are deemed in violation. To resolve the violation, we would be required to remove the signs, take down this website, and presumably stop communicating about the Cancourse in public! Put bluntly, we remain incredulous that the planning office stood firm on this clear violation of free speech despite our repeated attempts to clarify its absurdity.
Toward a better future
We have not yet received paperwork from the Kootenai County Planning Office, but office staff verbally described what to expect. Our current understanding is that an appeal can be filed (for a nontrivial fee) within 28 days of notice, and we have every intention of doing so. We do not know who has ultimate responsibility for ruling on the appeal, but we worry that it will be substantially the same staff as decided (mistakenly, in our opinion) to declare the Cancourse in violation of county code. To deny the appeal would be to perpetuate the misdirection of county and Cancourse resources (we’d rather be rehabilitating the forest). We don’t want to continue down that path, and we’re pretty sure that only a select few people in this county feel otherwise, county staff included. Indeed the Planning Office staff has acted professionally and courteously throughout this process, but their mandate has thus far come from a complainant. We can provide a broader mandate, by reaching out to our elected Kootenai County Commissioners and expressing our concerns. In brief, we as the Cancourse owners have the following concerns:
- County regulatory resources are being misdirected to harm the community.
- The county code does not support classifying the Cancourse as a recreation facility, and doing so would have far-reaching implications incompatible with existing property rights, at both the county and state level.
- The requirement to remove “advertising” (especially this website) has a chilling effect, and is a clear violation of free speech.
If you have these or similar concerns, we encourage you to write to the Board of County Commissioners via an online contact form.