The City Beach land swap makes sense

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Shelby Rognstad

A draft of the City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan is underway and draft concepts for four city park areas have been out for public feedback over the past month. The community-driven planning process has been underway since April and the final draft Master Plan will be presented for council adoption in January 2020. Traditionally, the city’s strategy for growth of parks infrastructure has been reactionary and opportunistic. As a result, we have been unable to form or implement an all-inclusive vision that maximizes public benefit. By establishing a cohesive vision for our parks, the city can serve more users, make better use of our limited parks resources and leverage grants and funding sources that are not available without a good plan.

Through the planning process a number of missed opportunities came to light that the conceptual designs propose to address. We asked the question ... if we had a blank slate in our parks, what configurations would best benefit our recreational needs, economy, and well-being for the next 50-plus years? So far, consolidation and improvements in our sports complex, War Memorial Field improvements, opportunities for recreation and pristine water to co-exist in our watershed, and a vibrant downtown and downtown waterfront with improved water access and year round activity are a few of the results.

Looking specifically at City Beach, it offers a family friendly passive recreational opportunity for residents and visitors. The beach perimeter and boating infrastructure are heavily used while the middle of the park and the lawn east of the Best Western are underused. The vision for the beach is first and foremost to maximize use as passive and family friendly. Due to its proximity to downtown and its desirability, it has still greater potential as an economic driver for downtown business.

To realize its full potential, the City Beach design concept proposes a land swap whereby the city acquires the 2.15-acre Edgewater RV park property south of City Beach in exchange for the 1.5-acre green space east of the Best Western Hotel. The greenspace has been largely underused outside of Trinity-sponsored events. This swap provides a number of public benefits. It facilitates reconfiguration of the boating infrastructure thereby removing congestion and traffic from the beach parking area while increasing boat access and parking. It opens up the interior of the park for special events and festival- type opportunities that will bring folks downtown and keep it active. It improves stormwater treatment through surface and subsurface treatment. It accommodates a boardwalk connecting City Beach to Sand Creek improving access for pedestrians and boaters. It allows for more efficient design and better use for the rest of the park overall.

While this land swap has many public benefits, it also supports local business by accommodating redevelopment of the Sand-Ida property (currently Best Western). The new hotel will serve nearly twice the current visitors and offer much needed conference space downtown. This is great for downtown businesses. The land swap will also enable the popular Trinity Restaurant and Lounge to remain on the waterfront. Without the swap, Sand-Ida would not have the space to accommodate a restaurant and bar. Meanwhile, the majority of greenspace the city is trading will remain open space as it is today, preserving the majestic views of the Pend Oreille. The city will also retain the beach to the east and the sidewalk that wraps around the parcel on three sides.

In summary the swap results in great public benefit to taxpayers. It also accommodates a broader vision for City Beach offering amenities beyond what we see today. New features include a destination park with water features that will be unique in Bonner County. It proposes a more cohesive, integrated greenspace that is more conducive to athletics and can accommodate special events like the Festival

and Fourth of July activities. The central events space can be used for basketball courts in the summer and can accommodate an ice rink in the winter. This achieves the goal to create a more active park year round.

The city is committed to creating a win-win-win for taxpayers, downtown businesses and users of City Beach. The proposed beach design achieves this goal. The land swap enables implementation of an integrated parks plan that improves public access to the water while preserving the best of what we enjoy at City Beach. It enhances the amenities available on our waterfront and enhances economic benefit for downtown businesses. For these reasons I will bring a proposal for council consideration, following due process, to proceed with the land swap in January.

You can view the design concepts for the city parks here on the city’s web portal at opentownhall.com/portals/287/Issue_7920. They are also on display in the City Hall lobby.

Please join me at the Mayor’s Roundtable this Friday, Nov. 22, 8 a.m. at Cedar St. Bistro to discuss this and other issues important to Sandpoint’s future. Beginning in January, the Mayor’s Roundtable will be held the Thursday following the third Wednesday of the month, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Eichardt’s Pub.

Shelby Rognstad is the mayor of Sandpoint. He can be reached at mayor@sandpointidaho.gov.

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