City: Group can camp at beach

SANDPOINT — The City Council has cleared the way for a large group of bike riders to camp at City Beach this summer.

In a visit that should have good implications for downtown businesses, the Ride Idaho group plans to visit Sandpoint in August. However, participants’ plans to camp at City Beach for the duration of their visit were frustrated by the city’s ordinance prohibiting camping in public parks. Those concerns will no longer be an issue after the council passed an ordinance allowing an exception for the group.

Businessman Mel Dick attended the Dec. 19 council meeting to throw his support behind the endeavor. Beyond his own interests as a business owner, Dick also spoke as a representative of the recently-formed Sandpoint Restaurant and Bar Association, saying that the group looked forward to the increased revenue from Ride Idaho’s visit. According to Dick, past interaction with the group, usually about 400 in number, have been very positive, with the visitors displaying respect and courtesy.

“I’ve spoken with a number of restaurant owners and bar owners, and they are in favor of this,” he said.   

Dick added that business owners in the downtown area experienced a nice bump in revenue when Ride Idaho visited a couple years ago. He expects that riders and support trucks will arrive on a Sunday, camp Sunday night and Monday night and be gone by Tuesday morning. The bicyclists will likely  spend a good portion of at least one day in town shopping and patronizing restaurants.

Representatives of the group took up their case with Parks and Recreation Director Kim Woodruff, who in turn brought the matter before the council in November. The council tabled the matter until feedback from the group’s leaders could be obtained. Upon revisiting the matter in December, council members debated whether or not it was appropriate to approve an ordinance for such a specific purpose.

“I think the idea of making a little, brief ordinance to cover two days is absolutely ridiculous,” Councilwoman Carrie Logan said.

Logan followed up by saying there were other places the riders could camp that wouldn’t require an occupation of City Beach. She also pointed out that according to data presented by Councilwoman Jamie Brunner at the November meeting, Sandpoint residents only had on average about eight weekends to enjoy the beach in optimal conditions. Given that small window of opportunity, she felt it was unfair to residents to have hundreds using the site as a campground.

However, most council members agreed that it was in the city’s best interest to facilitate the potential for an increase in downtown business while showing off Sandpoint’s virtues to potentially hundreds of newcomers. Moreover, the decision had some precedent, since the council granted a similar allowance to the group in 2010.

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